Anthropology of Europe Workshop: “Pouring Out Postsocialist Fears: Practical Metaphysics of a Therapy at a Distance”, November 4

The Anthropology of Europe Workshop proudly presents:

“Pouring Out Postsocialist Fears: Practical Metaphysics of a Therapy at a Distance”

by Larisa Jasarevic
Senior Lecturer, International Studies Program, University of Chicago

Discussant: Sean Dowdy, Ph.D. Student, Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago

Thursday, 4:45-6:00pm
Haskell Hall 101
November 4, 2010

Refreshments will be provided

Abstract: This paper looks at the healing practice of strava that translates as “great fear,” with a long oral history in Bosnia but particularly popular since the end of Socialism and of the 1990s war. The postsocialist therapy, informed by gifting dispositions, is a bustling business that intervenes into disorders that people commonly relate to the new de-monetized economy. Strava treatment presupposes distance since the therapist rarely touches the bodies at hand and interventions are habitually arranged by concerned intimates in the patients’ absence. Inspired by Bruno Latour’s (1993 and 2006) advice to expand our notion of agency in the direction of the native’s pointing finger, I approach strava and its claims to efficacy at a distance not as a traditional and symbolic practice but as a therapy that competes with psycho-pharmaceutical treatments of anxiety and depression in contemporary Bosnia. However, a commonplace therapeutic blunder—an accidental mixing of “fears” water and Coke—which therapists shrug off as of no consequence, points to the models of action that are best explored outside the pragmatics of science studies and with the insights of classic theories of sympathetic magic (Mauss [1902] 1950; Tylor [1871] 1920; and Frazer 1922). By thinking what makes strava water—carefully prepared with prayers and handled by the therapist’s and the patient’s wishing breaths—alone potent while Coke remains flat, I propose that this therapy is the domain of wishing which does not interrupt a sphere of new political economy but nevertheless intervenes effectively in the carnal bodies that suffer it.

To obtain a copy of the paper, please send an email request to either Shirley Yeung ( or Natalja Czarnecki ( Those seeking further information or persons with disabilities who may need assistance should please also email either Natalja Czarnecki or Shirley Yeung.

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