Book Review: Saints, Scholars, and Schizophrenics by Nancy Scheper-Hughes

After reading an excerpt of this in college (2003), I searched for 17 years for the actual title of this book to revisit. The lengths I went to were magnanimous, and in the end I was only a little disappointed. After all, 17 years of building something up in your mind is no low expectation of delivery. One of the original anthropological sociologists, this report is largely outdated and irrelevant since the rise of the internet and global commerce. Dated in the 1970’s Scheper-Hughes lived among those in rural Ireland for one year and reported her findings on the community. She particularly focused on mental illness, and though disguising all informants the townspeople identified themselves and their loved ones taking extreme offense to what they perceived as cold blooded betrayal. I find Scheper-Hughes is difficult to keep on topic and lacks provision of direction. This did not read as a case study with control factors and other elements we are accustomed to now, but rather focused largely on character development, individuality, and backstory. This work was groundbreaking and phenomenal at the time it was produced, and no doubt Scheper-Hughes will always remain a founding influence on cultural social studied. Yet my advice is, unless you are studying psychology or sociology, read the foreword (updated in early 2000’s) and let it rest.


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