Date of Award

12-1996

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Major

Anthropology

Major Professor

Michael H. Logan

Committee Members

Benita J. Howell, Yulan Washburn

Abstract

The purpose of this thesis is to assess patient satisfaction with Spiritist healing in Brazil. The data utilized consist of forty personal interviews of Spiritist patients conducted by the author during a seven month stay in Brazil. The study focuses primarily on the outcomes of the surgeries of Dr. Fritz, a well known Spiritist healer in Brazil, as seen from the point of view of the patients. The study finds that a clear majority of the patients expressed belief that their treatments were successful. This is particularly impressive in view of the fact that a majority of the patients had seen professional medical doctors for the same illnesses and were largely unsatisfied with the treatment they received through modern medicine. Various possible explanations for the success of the Spiritist surgeries are discussed. These include: the strength and appropriateness of the healing system in its cultural context, the extensive use of powerful symbolism in both the ritual preparations and the surgeries themselves, and the role of the placebo effect in symbolic healing. Certain trends in the types of illnesses for which the surgeries appear to have greater success are also suggested. The study makes it clear, however, that further inquiry into this subject is necessary to make an accurate assessment.

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