Psychosocial approaches to mass hysteria phenomena: a case study in Mozambique

Author: Carla Penna1
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  • 1 Ph.D, psychoanalyst in Circulo Psicanalítico of Rio de Janeiro, , Brazil, group analyst, Group Analytic Society International
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This article has two aims. First, it will provide an overview of hysteria and mass hysteria phenomena throughout history, by exploring the psychosocial elements underneath selected historical episodes such as medieval ‘dance plagues’ and ‘Loudun possessions’ (1632–34), but also by presenting recent social-psychiatric and epidemiological case analysis on the topic. Second, it will present and discuss an episode of what could be described as mass hysteria, which occurred in 2010 in a secondary school in Maputo, Mozambique. Using psychoanalytic and group analytic inputs, both aims will enable a suggestion as to the psychosocial aspects that lie underneath the referred episode. The article will also consider, although in the background, the role played by apparatuses of power and colonial discourses in shaping some of the analysis and visions that mass hysteria portrayed in the case study may have acquired. A transdisciplinary perspective will allow a broader understanding of mass hysteria, highlighting the relevance of psychosocial approaches to investigations of collective phenomena.

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  • 1 Ph.D, psychoanalyst in Circulo Psicanalítico of Rio de Janeiro, , Brazil, group analyst, Group Analytic Society International

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