Search for Security: An Ethno-Psychiatric Study of Rural Ghana (Paperback)
In Search for Security, M. J. Field offers a unique ethno-psychiatric study of rural Ghana. The book focuses on the people, many of whom were obviously mentally ill, who came to the shrines of a new religious movement for help. The author’s training in clinical psychiatry as well as ethnography enable her to place the findings of psychiatry within their cultural context. This book, drawn from a total of over 2,500 recorded cases, incorporates the results of her research.
Dr. Field’s findings do away with the myth that mental stress and illness are the prerogative of over-civilized societies. All the indices of stress familiar to students of European and American psychopathology were found to be present. After outlining the social, economic, and domestic conditions in rural Ghana, Dr. Field discusses the ideological background, in particular beliefs about witchcraft, magic, and spiritual possession. She then goes on to describe the treatment of patients at the shrines and interprets the complaints and requests in psychiatric terms. A series of chapters incorporate an illuminating selection of case studies, containing a wealth of accurate clinical material on depression, fear, and anxiety reactions, obsessive-compulsive disorders, paranoia, and schizophrenia.
Search for Security effectively demonstrates that psychiatric illness must be understood through the ideology and value system of the society in which it appears. The book has a broad theoretical and methodological implication for both psychiatric and anthropological research, and makes an important contribution to the understanding an aspect of African life that has long been neglected.