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Journal of Religion and Violence

Volume 1, Issue 3, 2013

Suicide: Why Do People Kill Themselves In The Name Of Religion?

Beatriz Reyes-Foster
Pages 363-381
DOI: 10.5840/jrv2013137

The Devil Made Her Do it: Understanding Suicide, Demonic Discourse, and the Social Construction of ‘Health’ in Yucatan, Mexico

In the state of Yucatan, Mexico, the suicide rate more than doubles the Mexican national average. This article uses ethnographic data to argue that 1) local understandings of suicide in Yucatán reflect a logic of health among Yucatec Maya people hinging on the belief that spiritual, bodily, and spatial balance must be maintained in order to prevent “illness,” understood as bodily and spiritual suffering; and 2) that Yucatec Maya users of Mexico’s public health system readily adapt the biomedical model to existing paradigms that comingle spiritual, mental, and bodily health due in great part to the inherent contradictions in both systems that simultaneously attribute responsibility for suicide and take it away. This apparent contradiction is thus a sympathetic template on which biomedical discourse and its imperfect application can map itself.

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