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January 2022

A Malay crosscultural worldview and forensic review of amok

Journal/Book: Aust N Z J Psychiat. 1996; 30: P O Box 126, Karrinyup 6018, Australia. Australian Nz J Psychiatry. 505-510.

Abstract: Objective: This article attempts to review the criteria for the amok phenomenon since the late 15th century and how its meaning has evolved into its present day usage. Method: A literature search was conducted examining and quoting Western sources vis-a-vis amok in the Malay context, ancient and modern. Results: This crosscultural approach overlaps with the forensic aspects of the phenomenon, This is inevitable as the word 'amok' itself brings to mind the phenomenon of violence which most often results in the breaching of the law. The changing face of amok as defined by Western authors is highlighted and compared to amuk as understood by modern Malays. Conclusions: It is inferred that amok as understood and classified in modern psychiatry has a different criteria set when compared and contrasted with the Malay understanding of amuk. With the broadening of the definition of amok, it is finally portrayed as being a syndrome that belongs to the East as well as the West.

Note: Review SM Hatta, Univ Kebangsaan Malaysia, Fac Med, Dept Psychiat, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

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