Saints, Scholars, and Schizophrenics

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Saints, Scholars, and Schizophrenics is the ethnographic study of a small town of An Cloch'an on the Dingle Peninsula in Ireland. Nancy Scheper-Hughes lived in this small village in order to gain perspective to why there was such a large number of schizophrenic cases within Ireland, and also why such a large percent were unmarried males. She wanted to dissect the issue of why these individuals were so prone to schizophrenia and what cultural factors cause these high rates. Scheper-Hughes interviewed both individuals in the village but also patients in the nearby mental institution. She relied heavily on thematic apperception tests and interviews for her conclusions. She found several cultural factors create an environment for high rates of schizophrenia. Economic conditions at the time Scheper-Hughes visited were grim. The loss of several social institutions, such as schools and churches, affected moral among these rural communities (lecture). Also the initiatives by the Irish Department of Lands to forced farmers into early retirement, and land was then bought by agricultural capitalists caused changes to traditional farming life (Scheper-Hughes 107-108). With this initiative there was less emphasis on farming and landownership became more a symbol of past traditions (Scheper-Hughes 104). In Ireland there is a large social stigma attached to those diagnosed with schizophrenia. Conformity is highly valued and reserved behavior is always expected (Scheper-Hughes 157). Schizophrenia is viewed as a chronic, life long condition, since those diagnose must be on medication the rest of their lives(Scheper-Hughes 166). The labeling theory explains these stigmas as use for “community definitions of normal and abnormal behavior, varia... ... middle of paper ... ...ation patterns and social stigmas to show that while schizophrenia patients maybe biologically predetermined, there are a number of social constructs that cause schizophrenic symptoms to rise to the surface. She concluded the economic hardships, mass emigration out of rural villages, and loss of the traditional farming lifestyle as reasons for schizophrenia. Twenty years later Scheper-Hughes returned to An Cloch'an, and the cultural changes such as a booming tourism, increased income, and less emphasis on traditional farming changed individual's thinking patterns and socialization within the community. Today there are less instances of schizophrenia among the citizens of An Cloch'an, which has proved Scheper-Hughes' theories of socialization and social stigma as the reasons for the high rates of schizophrenia when she first started her research (Scheper-Hughes 27).

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