Knot of the Soul: Madness, Psychoanalysis, Islam

Stefania Pandolfo | Anthropology

Through a dual engagement with the unconscious in psychoanalysis and Islamic theological-medical reasoning, Stefania Pandolfo’s unsettling and innovative book reflects on the maladies of the soul at a time of tremendous global upheaval. Drawing on in-depth historical research and testimonies of contemporary patients and therapists in Morocco, Knot of the Soul offers both an ethnographic journey through madness and contemporary formations of despair and a philosophical and theological exploration of the vicissitudes of the soul.

Knot of the Soul moves from the experience of psychosis in psychiatric hospitals, to the visionary torments of the soul in poor urban neighborhoods, to the melancholy and religious imaginary of undocumented migration, culminating in the liturgical stage of the Qur’anic cure. Demonstrating how contemporary Islamic cures for madness address some of the core preoccupations of the psychoanalytic approach, she reveals how a religious and ethical relation to the “ordeal” of madness might actually allow for spiritual transformation.

This sophisticated and evocative work illuminates new dimensions of psychoanalysis and the ethical imagination while also sensitively examining the collective psychic strife that so many communities endure today.