Are beliefs in witchcraft and “voodoo death” not real? Do magical explanations of disease mean people are primitive and less educated? Or are stories and beliefs at the heart of reality for all cultures – including ours?
Frank Bures, author of The Geography of Madness: Penis Thieves, Voodoo Death, and the Search for the Meaning of the World’s Strangest Syndromes, looks beyond travel literature’s colonial superiority and explores how meaning, perception, and belief shape what we think of as “real” in the disease and health.
How does the legacy of colonialism affect mental health in India? Are women’s rights, spiritual freedom, and ant-colonialism intertwined? Do women who choose a path of spiritual renunciation have the same freedom as men? Where are human rights more respected: in traditional temples, or in hospital locked wards?
Bhargavi Davar’s mother Bapu was a psychiatric abuse survivor persecuted for her religious devotion. Bapu’s struggle inspired Bhargavi to found the Bapu Trust, where she leads advocacy for mental health reform and community development throughout Asia.
What if psychotic experiences express historical and intergenerational trauma? Does one person’s emotional crisis reach beyond their own individual mind? Could synchronicities and meaningful coincidences guide recovery instead of just being “symptoms”?
Naas Siddiqui, a psychiatric survivor and therapist in training who founded the Spiritual Emergence and other Unusual Experiences student group, descended into altered states after withdrawing from psychiatric medications. She discovered how her Bangladeshi heritage shaped her madness, and found a unique pathway to use her visionary states to heal personal and family trauma.