This post comes to us from Ali Altaf Mian, Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies at Seattle University. His review essay on Knot of the Soul, forthcoming in qui parle, particularly considers how Pandolfo inhabits the “ethics of psychoanalysis” and the citational status of the Qur’an in her ethnography.
Say (O Muhammad): It has been revealed to me that a company of the Jinn gave ear [to the Qur’an], and they said: Lo! We have heard a marvelous Qur’an.
DJINN: according to the Muslim conception bodies (adjsam) composed of vapour or flame, intelligent, imperceptible to our senses, capable of appearing under different forms and of carrying out heavy labours (al-Baydawi, Comm. to Kur’an, LXXII, 1; al-Damiri, Hayawan, s.v. djinn). They were created of smokeless flame (Kur’an, LV, 14) while mankind and the angels, the other two classes of intelligent beings, were created of clay and light. They are capable of salvation; Muhammad was sent to them as well as to mankind; some will enter Paradise while others will be cast into the fire of hell.
—The Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd Edition, 2:546-7.
Their speech is an incised shape of silence, an intaglio,
in which the word is not a single, schisted bloc
of sense, like ours, but guards its pristine
opacity and is impossible
for any dragoman to approximate.
—Eric Ormsby, “The Jinn.”
Possession-form identities in dissociative identity disorder typically manifest as behaviors that appear as if a “spirit,” supernatural being, or outside person has taken control, such that the individual begins speaking or acting in a distinctly different manner. For example, an individual’s behavior may give the appearance that her identity has been replaced by the “ghost” of a girl who committed suicide in the same community years before, speaking and acting as though she were still alive. Or an individual may be “taken over” by a demon or deity, resulting in profound impairment, and demanding that the individual or a relative be punished for a past act, followed by more subtle periods of identity alteration. However, the majority of possession states around the world are normal, usually part of spiritual practice, and do not meet criteria for dissociative identity disorder. The identities that arise during possession-form dissociative identity disorder present recurrently, are unwanted and involuntary, cause clinically significant distress or impairment…and are not a normal part of a broadly accepted cultural or religious practice.
—American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition
What does it mean to assume a subject position in the context of the ‘therapies of the jinns’?
—Stefania Pandolfo, Knot of the Soul, 87.
The invisible figures of jinns populate Muslim-majority societies. They come up not only in Qur’anic verses that report of their astonishment at Muhammad’s recitation of sacred writ but also in folk tales that portray them as paranormal parasites that possess or perturb bodies but especially brains. The idea of the jinn, living beings that many Muslims hold to be invisible to human perception, indicates for many of us in the Western academy a limit of the ontological thinkable. To assume that jinns are real existents, to take them not as figures of fiction but of fact—of veridicality—flies in the face of “enlightened man.”
Continue reading “Knot of the Soul Book Event: Encountering the Invisible”