Follow me into the realm of healing where you will meet doctors, psychiatrists and psychologists as well as traditional healers who grapple with women’s symptomspeak. You will read about diagnostic practices and healing in resource scarce settings, magical encounters, and ethical dilemmas. Overall, the stories reveal creative forces through which new commentaries and understandings are created about health and illness, family arrangements, national politics and the state of the world.

Therapeutic looking glass


Therapeutic practice exposed society in its many facets to health practitioners providing treatment to women survivors of the Kosovo War. Like a mirror, it provided an image of an alternative reality reflecting in waves societal concerns, not clearly visible because of obstruction. Lurking in blind angles, in dead corners, it made practitioners doubt, feel uneasy and bewildered about the world around them.

Mirroring occurred as practitioners listened to their patients’ stories, attended to their pains, contemplated diagnoses and offered care. It made them realise that the women’s illnesses were much more than mental disorders. Rather, they were powerful […]

Psychiatric Becomings in Times of War. A Short History


Dr Ukshini,

her back turned towards us in her white doctor’s coat, was busy preparing Turkish coffee over a small gas cooker. Laughing she remembered how American psychiatrists and psychologists had once turned up at her office asking for a training session in coffee making. It was their last visit to the psychiatric hospital in Prishtina before returning to the US after months of training the first cohort of health workers in community-based mental health support. Still chuckling, she carefully poured the flavourful foamy coffee into three cups before handing them to me and Albana, my research assistant.

Settling into our chairs across from […]

When the Deserving Poor Refuse to be Virtuous and Humanitarian Aid Fails to Imagine a Good Life


Humanitarian virtues

Wars change life conditions.

There are the sheer number of civilian deaths and the flow of forcibly displaced people. There is family disintegration, weakening of social networks and breakdown of social services. There are material losses, disruption of social economies, dislocation of food production, and the exodus of the workforce. There are high unemployment rates and low wages; and there is poverty.

Wars also create new possibilities.

People reorient themselves towards one another and towards the influx of strangers – the mercenaries, the peacekeepers, and the aid providers. I observed for years how humanitarian aid with its entourage of experts, volunteers, and adventurers profoundly […]

“I had accepted that I might die – this allowed me to continue helping.” The Testimony of a Doctor


“Come in!” we hear in response to our gentle knock on the door. We enter Dr. Cena’s modestly furnished office in the heart of the community health centre.

“Take a seat,” offers Dr Cena as he indicates two black chairs facing a desk that is covered with paper work.


“Please” Luriana and I nod as we take our seats.

He gestures to a health worker passing by in the otherwise empty hallway who soon returns with three steaming cups of Turkish coffee. Dr. Cena, a middle-aged man, exudes authority and kindness as he welcomes us warmly. We had met several weeks ago at an event […]

Golden Bag. A story about fraud and magic


She is ready. Upright, she stands in front of her modest house. Golden Bag is emblazoned across the small black sports bag she carries in her hand. In the blistering sun, we walk slowly to my beaten-up VW Golf parked in the shade of the rough, unpaved road. Adjusting her headscarf, Ellma[1] squeezes into the back of the car between Marigona – my research assistant – and me. My husband drives.

We are on a mission. We want to recover money that has been stolen from Ellma’s bank account. Two hundred and fifty euros is missing from her meagre widow’s pension […]

The Game of Truth OR how to convince village women to seek mental health care


“Women who come from rural areas don’t know how to explain their health problems to psychiatrists like me. When I tell them that their problems have a psychological basis, they say, ‘Why? I have good living conditions’.” As he was adjusting his tie, the psychiatrist reasoned that since the lives of Kosovar village women mainly revolved around fulfilling their basic needs, they lacked a refined understanding of their emotions and psychological pains. With some disdain in his voice, he went on, “They think that having enough to eat and good living conditions is all they need (…)” and illuminated this point by […]

On the quest for help: From kitchen cabinets to clinics to holy places


Excruciating pains slowed many of the women survivors of war down, bound them to their couches, frustrated interactions with their children, and meant that work was left undone. To endure their sickened bodies and be able to carry on, they reframed their pains into health problems and, in this process, created spaces for alternative bodied actions and interactions. Initial reframing usually occurred through unspectacular, unnoticed activities as women in Krusha e Madhe and Pastsel made use of what was at hand: their kitchen cabinet became a source of different dietary options such as herbs that were taken to soothe them, in the […]

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