Knot of the soul: madness, psychoanalysis, Islam

Dublin Core


Knot of the soul: madness, psychoanalysis, Islam


Pandolfo, Stefania


Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2018

Place of Publication

United States: Chicago

No. of Pages

419 p.




In this unsettling and innovative book, anthropologist Stefania Pandolfo addresses the problematic of the subject through a dual examination of psychoanalysis and Islamic theological-medical reasoning, reflecting on the unconscious maladies of the soul at a time of tremendous global upheaval. Drawing on in-depth historical research and sensitively listening to contemporary patients in Morocco, she offers both an ethnographic journey through madness and contemporary formations of despair and a philosophical and theological exploration of the vicissitudes of the soul. Pandolfo's study spans a breadth that encompasses experiences of psychosis in psychiatric hospitals, visionary torments of the soul in urban life, the difficulty of undocumented migration, and the liturgical space of Quranic healing. 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. Altogether, this work illuminates new dimensions of psychoanalysis and the ethical imagination while also sensitively examining the collective psychic strife that so many communities endure today.

Primary Classification


Secondary Classification

17.1; 1.2

Primary keywords

psychology [pri]; Islamic ethics [pri]

Secondary keywords

alternative therapies; cuture; Islamic medicine; mental disorders; mental health; patient care; psychiatry; suffering




jinn; nafs; ruqya


University of Chicago Press

Primary Document Type


Table Of Contents

Psychiatric fragments in the aftermath of culture. Testimony in counterpoint ; The hospital ; The jinn and the pictogram ; The knot of the soul -- Interlude. islam and the ethics of psychoanalysis -- The passage: imagination, alienation. Taʻbīr: figuration and the torment of life -- The burning -- The jurisprudence of the soul -- Overture: the vertigo of history -- Faqīh al-nafs: the jurist of the soul -- Shariʻa healing: "knowledge of the path to the hereafter" -- Prophetic medicine and the ruqiya -- The jouissance of the jinn -- The psychiatrist and the imam -- Black bile and the intractable jinn: threshold of the inorganic -- The argument of shirk (idolatry) -- Extimacy: the battlefield of the nafs -- The writing of the soul: soul choking, imagination, and pain -- Concluding movement: the passion of Zulikha, theater of the soul.

Call Number

BP190.5.P78 P36 2018


Includes references and index





“Knot of the soul: madness, psychoanalysis, Islam
,” Islamic Medical & Scientific Ethics, accessed January 19, 2021,