Welcome back to our two-week special update featuring glimpses into some of the articles published in the latest release of Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry. These brief synopses of a few of our newest pieces from the September 2014 issue are only some of the publications that the current issue has to offer. We hope they invite you to explore the many other fascinating articles housed in this issue and in past volumes of CMP.
Swapnaushadhi: The Embedded Logic of Dreams and Medical Innovation in Bengal
Projit Bihari Mukharji
Mukharji’s article discusses the prevalent but little-researched history of indigenous therapeutic practices in Bengal that stem from therapies revealed in healers through dreams. Instead of grouping this practice into the indiscriminate category of “indigenous practice” or “dream culture,” the author asserts that all dream cultures are locally specific. They also do not draw stringent religious boundaries, as healers (and their patients) may receive visions of divine figures like Jesus or Muhammed despite not being of the creed the prophet represents. Because of this cross-cultural and “borderless” dialogue, medical innovation in dream medicine occurs regularly as the product of contact between numerous religious, spiritual, and local traditions. As Mukharji argues, “the logic of dreams opens up a space: the swapna-sthana or the dreamland where such cross-boundary transactions can take place without undermining the sanctity of the boundary itself in everyday social life.”
‘‘Pensando Mucho’’ (‘‘Thinking Too Much’’): Embodied Distress Among Grandmothers in Nicaraguan Transnational Families
Kristin Elizabeth Yarris
Yarris chronicles the difficulties faced by Nicaraguan grandmothers serving as the primary caregivers of grandchildren whose mothers have migrated to another country for employment. The author asks us to reconsider the simplistic mind-body connection in lieu of a more complicated view of the body and mind as experiencing distress: physical, emotional, and cultural all at once. In this paper, we discover that the term “thinking too much” ultimately describes the difficult self-sacrifice faced by grandmothers who tend to their grandchildren to allow their own children to succeed elsewhere. The stress of geographically dispersed and fractured families, the burden of caregiving later in life, and anxieties surrounding the grandmothers’ “hopes for the future” generate a particular form of psychosomatic suffering connected to broader economic, social, and political pressures manifested at the local level among these Nicaraguan families.