The imitation of madness: the influence of psychopathology upon culture.


Psychiatry and ethnography have been reluctant to consider the possibility that psychosis may provide a model for social organisation and belief. The situations in which this may occur are considered and two examples discussed: the historical leader of a Jewish messianic movement and the contemporary founder of a Trinidadian sect. Individual delusions may be converted into a shared public culture by the manipulation of previously accepted symbolism and a simple inversion of the traditional values in some area may enable the whole community to attain a more sophisticated conceptualisation. In particular, antinomian acts rooted in psychopathology may generate more universal dispensations out of systems of dual classification.

Cite this paper

@article{Littlewood1984TheIO, title={The imitation of madness: the influence of psychopathology upon culture.}, author={Roland Littlewood}, journal={Social science & medicine}, year={1984}, volume={19 7}, pages={705-15} }