This proposal is for continuation of a program of ethnographic research aimed at defining the experiential specificity of therapeutic change processes in three forms of religious healing in contemporary Navajo society: Traditional Navajo, Native American Church, and Navajo Christian. The methodological perspective is that of cultural anthropology, and is based on a qualitative, interpretive research paradigm. Five studies are proposed for the next phase of the research. The first is an extension of the ethnography of therapeutic practice carried out through interviews with 95 Navajo healers that will elaborate critical themes identified to date through followup interviews and observation of healing events with selected healers in each religious form. These themes include the repertoire of therapeutic procedures, the principles of efficacy attributed to them by participants, the underlying ethnopsychology of person, self, thought, emotion, suffering, and transformation, the rhetorical resources in terms of which illness and healing are conceptualized and performed, and the perceived compatibility among the three forms of Navajo religious healing. The second study is an extension of the ethnography of therapeutic process carried out through interviews and observation of 86 Navajo patients. The study will add a longitudinal perspective on the subsequent healing careers and life trajectories of these patients, and is centered on a four part model of therapeutic process including a) disposition of participants; b) experience of the sacred; c) elaboration of alternatives; and d) actualization of change. It will supplement narrative case studies of patients prepared in the initial project period, as well as strengthen our conclusions about the extent to which community healing resources address intransigent mental health problems that have proven unresolvable by conventional psychiatric and social service interventions, especially those associated with depression and alcohol/substance abuse. The final series of three interrelated studies will examine the relation between language and experience in Navajo healing based on analysis of already collected data that go beyond the specific aims and analyses proposed and carried out in the initial funding period. These include a study of the relation between the language of experience in interviews conducted in Navajo and those conducted in English, a study of narrative structure, performance, and experiential content in the large body of stories extracted from interviews, and a methodological study of interviewing as a social and linguistic process based on comparison of ethnographic and diagnostic interviews conducted with Navajo patients.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Research Project (R01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZMH1-BRB-N (08))
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Otey, Emeline M
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Case Western Reserve University
Social Sciences
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Csordas, Thomas J; Dole, Christopher; Tran, Allen et al. (2010) Ways of asking, ways of telling: a methodological comparison of ethnographic and research diagnostic interviews. Cult Med Psychiatry 34:29-55
Csordas, Thomas J; Storck, Michael J; Strauss, Milton (2008) Diagnosis and distress in Navajo healing. J Nerv Ment Dis 196:585-96
Csordas, Thomas J (2004) Healing and the human condition: scenes from the present moment in Navajoland. Cult Med Psychiatry 28:1-14
Garrity, J F (2000) Jesus, peyote, and the holy people: alcohol abuse and the ethos of power in Navajo healing. Med Anthropol Q 14:521-42
Lewton, E L; Bydone, V (2000) Identity and healing in three Navajo religious traditions: sa'ah naaghai bik'eh hozh [symbol: see text]. Med Anthropol Q 14:476-97
Csordas, T J (2000) The Navajo Healing Project. Med Anthropol Q 14:463-75