Pena in the Ecuadorian Sierra: A psychoanthropological analysis of sadness


Michel Tousignant.


Noting that the term pena in highland Ecuador refers to a state of mind characterized by a mixture of sadness and anxiety and to an illness state resembling depression, the present author illustrates, through an analysis of discourse on pena, how the ideology in which it is embedded serves to interpret a bodily problem while simultaneously reflecting a more global attitude toward life. In essence, the folk theory states that the physical complaints caused by suffering are the result of a disturbance of the heart (the central organ of humans) and of the emotional life it controls. Because this suffering is often attributed to the immediate family group of the victim, the community at large often formulates accusations against one of its members. Though the therapy is limited to a cure of the symptoms through herbal remedies, a formal request can be made to a perceived wrongdoer to amend his/her behavior. Pena is also a state that can lead to a dangerous and sometimes lethal illness characterized by a sudden explosion of anger or madness following an unattended state of pena. AMÉRIQUE-DU-SUD CULTURE ETHNICITÉ ÉMOTION ANXIÉTÉ DÉPRESSION COLÈRE ATTITUDE CONCEPTION CORPS COMMUNICATION COMMUNAUTÉ SOUTIEN-SOCIAL SOMATISATION FAMILLE SOUFFRANCE TRAITEMENT PHARMACOTHÉRAPIE ANTHROPOLOGIE RESPONSABILITÉ DÉTRESSE-PSYCHOLOGIQUE

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