Therapeutic encounters at a Muslim shrine in Pakistan: an ethnographic study of understandings and explanations of ill health and help-seeking among attenders.

Pirani, Farida (2009) Therapeutic encounters at a Muslim shrine in Pakistan: an ethnographic study of understandings and explanations of ill health and help-seeking among attenders. PhD thesis, Middlesex University.

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Abstract

In Muslim countries, shrines of Sufi saints serve as sources of healing. Why people decide to seek healing at shrines and their experience whilst there remains largely un-researched. The aims of this study were to: investigate the explanatory models of sickness among attendees at a Muslim shrine particularly in relation to this choice of help-seeking; explore individuals’ perceptions and experiences regarding the role of the shrine; and propose a theory explaining the meaning of attendees’ problems, their choice of healing resource and the role it played. An ethnographic approach was used to allow exploration of the topic from the perspectives of those seeking help at the Shrine. Semi-structured interview, incorporating the Explanatory Model (EM) of sickness (Kleinman, 1980), and participant observation were used to collect data over a period of three months. This study was conducted at a Muslim shrine in Pakistan. Twenty six attendees participated, including those seeking healing, carers, and a Shrine caretaker. The results highlighted magic and possession as the main explanations of the problem that brought them to the Shrine. Participants’ experiences of everyday oppression, and adverse social factors, such as poverty, poor quality of medical care, and domestic violence seemed to play a significant role in the development of their problem. The Shrine served as a therapeutic landscape, the prevailing social conditions, built environment and perceptions of attendees combined to produce a place ‘conducive to healing’ (Gesler, 1992), that allowed healing to take place. Possession acted as a vehicle for a subtle change in the family dynamics in which family members appeared complicit. The movement and changes in power, the positive reframing of symptoms/problems and the renegotiation of identity essentially transformed the individual and made the experience therapeutic. The results generate a unique set of knowledge in regard to the role of shrines in Pakistan as culturally sanctioned places allowing therapeutic change and healing.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information:

A thesis submitted to Middlesex University in partial fulfilment to the requirement for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

Research Areas:Masters and Doctorates > Theses
Middlesex University Schools and Centres > School of Health and Education > Health & Education
ID Code:3338
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Deposited On:02 Dec 2009 17:03
Last Modified:19 Jul 2014 13:37

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