Stefania Pandolfo’s exciting and deeply profound ethnography, Knot of the Soul, offers the most extensive analytic framework to consider madness in a Muslim-majority context (in this case, contemporary Morocco) and to address broader methodological questions concerning conceptual translation between psychoanalysis and Islam. The book’s most salient feature, in my view, is the care and caution with which it crafts an engagement between multiple frames of reference and modalities of meaning: the postcolonial (really, the lingering colonial) predicaments of her interlocutors, the local bodies of knowledge and patterns of practice from which they draw affective force as they navigate their ordeals in life, and psychoanalysis as a mode of reading, as an assemblage of theories about subjectivity, and as an institutional practice enmeshed in wider political regimes of social control.

In this brief essay I explore and complicate the itineraries of two...

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