The Effectiveness of Symbols: Psychogeographic Explorations of the Body

Williams Gamaker, Michelle. 2020. The Effectiveness of Symbols: Psychogeographic Explorations of the Body. In: Monika Ankele and Benoît Majerus, eds. Material Cultures of Psychiatry. Bielefeld, Germany: transcript Verlag, pp. 282-295. ISBN 9783837647884 [Book Section]

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Abstract or Description

In The Effectiveness of Symbols (1972), Claude Levi-Strauss recounts the experience of a woman undergoing a difficult childbirth. A shaman is called upon to alleviate the “blockage” and she receives a cure by song. The song (an object in itself) represents a voyage through the body’s interior geography, in which the shaman encounters fantastic beasts, a way to visualize and personify pain, and thus offer the pregnant woman a way to “see” her pain. This is where the power of objects, the use of theatrical devices and dramatic representation comes in, by highlighting the materiality of the body. This article will explore the idea of healing through theatrical modes, by telling stories and turning the notion of abstract possibilities into concrete action to relate the symbolic and material approaches to effecting “cures.” This article expands on my performance lecture at the Material Cultures of Psychiatry conference, Hamburg in 2018.

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© 2020 transcript Verlag, Bielefeld

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2 November 2020Published

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11 Jan 2022 16:20

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11 Jan 2022 16:20


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