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Altered States/Dissociation
Record Type: Review   ID: 364

The Passion of Ansel Bourne: Multiple Personality in American Culture

Kenny, Michael G.

 A social anthropologist, familiar with the phenomenon of possession in primitive cultures, writes about multiple personality, which he views as a cultural variant of possession. The first chapter tells the story of a pioneer case of multiple personality, Mary Babcock. The case of Ansel Bourne is described in the second chapter. In the next chapter he examines spiritism (mediumship), which he views as an important aspect of multiple personality as it was expressed in the 1890s. He discusses the impact Spiritualism had on 19th-century psychology, and deals with a specific case that of Mrs. Piper, and her communicating spirit, G.P. In Chapter 4 he deals with the work of Morton Prince with "Miss Beauchamp" and "B.C.A." In a concluding chapter he writes about the current wave of interest in multiple personality, in which many multiple selves are manifested. Throughout the book Kenny is concerned to show how the expression of the multiple personality syndrome was influenced by and served as an expression of cultural factors. Just as in non-Western societies spirit possession occurs in individuals in difficult contradictory or traditional situations, so he observes that in Western society multiple personality appears to be "a complex metaphorical response" to cultural and personal situations of stress and transition.
Publisher Information:Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1986. 250p. Bibl: 217-233; Chap. notes: 189-216; 8 illus; Ind: 235-250
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