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October 2021

Cult Med Psychiatry. 1998 Jun; 22(2): 203-30.

Research notes on social order and subjectivity: individuals' experience of susto and fallen fontanelle in a rural community in central Mexico.

Castro R, Eroza E.

Centro Regional de Investigaciones Multidisciplinarias/UNAM, Chamilpa, Cuernavaea, Mor., Mexico.

Disciplines such as sociology and anthropology have showed that the experience of illness, is above all, a social product, that is, that social factors of different kinds play a central role in shaping individuals' subjectivity. This paper refers to the case of Ocuituco, a rural town of central Mexico. The article presents some of the results achieved through an interpretive sociological study of individuals' subjective experience of traditional illnesses such as susto, soul-loss, and fallen fontanelle. The aim is to analyze how Ocuituco's inhabitants attach meaning to, interpret, and experience these illnesses. The main point being made is that the subjective experience of traditional illnesses is shaped both by the cultural background of individuals, and by the sociological features of the setting where these individuals live. Data are interpreted in connection both to structural factors (poverty, medicalization, and patriarchy), and to the main traits that characterize individuals' view of their world: a sense of uncertainty, a sense of the unexpected as being normal, a sense of being oppressed, a familiarity with a patriarchal order. It is shown that both susto and fallen fontanelle are belief systems which allow individuals to interpret their circumstances and attach meaning to their problematic everyday life.

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