Faith Healing at a Muslim Shrine in Gujarat, India: Exploring the Site, Subject, and Ghost

UoM administered thesis: Phd

  • Authors:
  • Sabah Siddiqui


The thesis is an inquiry into the meaning and significance of faith healing at the 500 year old Mira Datar Dargah in the village of Unava in Gujarat, India. The Mira Datar Dargah was selected as the site of this study not only for its historical and cultural relevance, but also due to the government-supported mental health programme attached to it. This study asks questions related to the site of faith healing (shrine of Mira Datar in Unava), the subject (sawwali or devotee, caught between the shrine and the clinic), and the ghost (sign of something missing in accounts of subjectivity). Based on a qualitative paradigm and a postcolonial perspective, this study uses a modular approach to the research by looking at different aspects of the research as modules that benefit from different methodological input. This thesis is organized in two sections. Section I on Sitation looks at how the site becomes an object of study. Through a historical treatment of the Muslim shrine as a syncretic space, a reflexive analysis of how the researcher comes to a cultural site that has become interpellated by the Global Mental Health movement, and a geographical exploration of the social space around the dargah within the larger ambit of the village through the analysis of sixteen maps generated in this study. Based on the organization of space around the shrine, this section theorizes caste as the master signifier in Indian society, and builds toward an analysis of boundaries of inclusion and exclusion. Section II on Subjectivation takes a narrative approach to the subject of faith healing situated between discourses of faith and science. With the generation of six narratives by sawwalis, this section locates the shuffling symptom demonstrated by families at the shrine as having clinical significance for studies on faith healing. The narratives also depict the challenges research participants faced in speaking about their affliction, the nature and even the name of it, which is illustrative of the way ghosts escape from narratives by research subjects, which leads this section to propose the Ghost as method for critical research. This exploratory study brings to critical psychology a new site in faith healing shrines, a subject theorized through caste identity, and the ghost deployed both as an internal critique of the subject, and as a method to investigate lacunae in the social sciences.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date1 Aug 2019