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Title: American Healers: Psychology and the Sacred
Authors: Laufenberg, George
Advisors: Biehl, João G
Greenhouse, Carol J
Contributors: Anthropology Department
Keywords: Anthropology of Religion
Medical Anthropology
Mental Health Care
Psychological Anthropology
Social sciences
Subjects: Cultural anthropology
Issue Date: 2015
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation investigates the spiritual lives and ritual practices of a group of U.S. mental health professionals, and examines how they translate their religious experiences into a vision for social change, personal transformation, and a role for the sacred in American mental health care. Drawing on nearly two years of ethnographic research--ranging from interviews in college mental health centers to participant-observation of healing ceremonies on a Lakota reservation--I show how the entangled spiritual and vocational lives of a loosely-connected network of U.S. psychotherapists help us to understand both forms of care and ways of worship in contemporary American life. I argue that these psychotherapists both resist and reproduce what they call the "dominant culture," as they navigate between appropriation and bricolage in clinics and ceremonies. My ethnography challenges scholarly accounts of Western `secular' selfhood and attends to the particularities of self-fashioning as an always-unfolding project. The body of the text is divided into three parts, in which I examine the interaction-level spaces in which relationships among experience, authority, and truth are negotiated, and follow the complex trajectories along which traditions migrate. Through close attention to talk and lived practice, I show how my informants inscribe, perform, and transgress boundaries between aspects of their lives as they labor to create what I call "sacred sociality" and pursue possibilities for faith and healing. The dissertation contributes to the ethnography of culture in the contemporary United States. It also contributes to debate over the ethics and politics of social scientific inquiry into religion and health, as well as broader epistemological questions underlying those debates. In particular, it demonstrates how surveys and interviews--methods designed to make sense of unconventional American spiritual practices--reproduce conventional, reductionistic categories of analysis. More fundamentally, however, this work tells a story about middle-class Americans reaching out beyond the world in which they were encultured--and it's also very much about how they decide to stop: where they draw the lines, that is, between what they're willing to do and give up, and what they choose to protect.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Anthropology

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