Drinking the Water: Nankani Witchcraft and Ordeals

“Witches catch the soul of the person,” said Abanga. “They hide the soul somewhere and wait to see what the family members say, their reaction. If the victim is very hard, difficult, or strong, the witch will talk to other witches to get a better view of the family—to see what the family members are… Continue reading Drinking the Water: Nankani Witchcraft and Ordeals

Of House or Bush: The Cultural Psychodynamics of Infanticide in Northern Ghana

My latest article was accepted for publication in Current Anthropology. It has been a long ten years in the making. Infanticide, Oedipus, projection, family conflict, scapegoats, and narcissistic injury--all the makings of a good drama. I'll be posting a link to it after some final edits. For now, the abstract (summing up the 12,000 word behemoth) and… Continue reading Of House or Bush: The Cultural Psychodynamics of Infanticide in Northern Ghana

An Introduction to Psychoanalytic Anthropology: Perspectives (2/2)

This is the second post (of two) on psychoanalytic anthropology. The previous post, which discussed background details, is located here. There is significant diversity in how anthropologists have engaged or adopted psychoanalytic methods and theory in their ethnographic research and writing.  To summarize these perspectives, I grouped these approaches into four categories.  While presented as… Continue reading An Introduction to Psychoanalytic Anthropology: Perspectives (2/2)

An Introduction to Psychoanalytic Anthropology: The Background (1/2)

There has always been a kinship between anthropology and psychoanalysis, however uneven, from Freud’s interest in anthropological data and his attempts to link the psyche with social forms, to more contemporary shared theorizations of the self and subjectivity in culturally diverse contexts. Psychoanalyst and anthropologist Elizabeth Bott-Spillius believed that while the content and expressions between… Continue reading An Introduction to Psychoanalytic Anthropology: The Background (1/2)

What is Cultural Psychodynamics?

I frequently refer to parts of my research and writing as working from a "cultural psychodynamic" perspective. What is this? In short, it is a theory and methodology that brings together perspectives from cultural phenomenology and psychoanalysis (culture + psyche). It emphasizes the complexity of cultural subjects and examines the ways in which culture and… Continue reading What is Cultural Psychodynamics?

Reflections on the 2016 Boyer Award

This was originally posted on the Society for Psychological Anthropology blog. In it, I summarize my award winning article.  While most scholarly accounts of divination focus on its social functions, in A Psychodynamic Phenomenology of Nankani Interpretive Divination and the Formation of Meaning, I emphasize Nankani divination’s meaning-making features and explain how divination shapes people’s subjectivity… Continue reading Reflections on the 2016 Boyer Award

Finding Empathy Through Troubling Stories

As I wrote about infanticide and the “spirit child” phenomenon in Northern Ghana, I became interested in how narratives of vulnerability and difficult human experiences can evoke powerful emotional and imaginative reactions in listeners and readers. Spirit children are, most often, disabled or ill children believed to be spirits sent to destroy the family. In… Continue reading Finding Empathy Through Troubling Stories