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  • Cited by 4
  • Print publication year: 2014
  • Online publication date: November 2014

7 - “The Spirits Enter Me to Force Me to Be a Communist”



The question of how to frame extraordinary experiences that resemble the symptoms of schizophrenia or related mental illness, yet have other polyvalent cultural meanings that may make such psychiatric evaluations irrelevant or orthogonal to the lived experience and subjectivity of the person concerned, is one of interest to social scientists and clinicians attempting to interpret the relations among culture, psychiatric illness, and phenomenology. This chapter explores this issue through an in-depth case study of an older man in rural Bali who has struggled for much of his adult life with the intrusion of what he terms “shadows” or apparitions (in Indonesian [Ind.], bayangan).

“Nyoman” is a 53-year-old Balinese Hindu rice farmer. He was born and has lived his entire life in a small rural village located at the center of the southern Balinese rice bowl – a densely settled part of Bali about thirty kilometers north of the capital city Denpasar, and one of the most agriculturally productive areas of Indonesia. This village is situated on a major road linking a number of tourist destinations and has witnessed the massive changes Bali has gone through in the past generation as it has been transformed into Indonesia’s premier vacation spot. Geographically and figuratively, village life bridges vast changes brought on by electrification, nationalization, the impact of mass media, and globalization, on the one hand; and rural time, which is marked by a complex ritual calendar, adherence to village customary law (Ind., adat), and the daily and cyclical routines of wet rice irrigation, on the other. Nyoman still lives in his patrilocal natal family compound with his wife and two adult children and their families, as well as other extended kin. He has worked all his life in the fields, farming several hectares of rice land and occasionally taking additional construction jobs. His wife works in the market selling religious offerings.

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