Cross-cultural conceptualisations of schizophrenia in Cameroonian languages

Research Article

Cross-cultural conceptualisations of schizophrenia in Cameroonian languages

DOI: 10.2989/16073614.2022.2128383
Author(s): Rodolphe Prosper Maah University of Douala Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Cameroon


This article investigates the culturally constructed conceptualisations of schizophrenia in Cameroonian languages. Twenty languages from the four Cameroonian cultural areas were investigated using focus group discussions and individual interviews. A thematic analysis was used, and the results of these investigations indicate that the meaning attached to schizophrenia is culture specific. The sociocultural conceptualisation mainly reflects guilt in its spiritual dimension, impurity, punishment from the deity of justice, spirit possession, bewitchment, etc. Two main conceptualisations of schizophrenia or mental illnesses were discussed: the guilty type where schizophrenics are mostly considered to be under a spell as a result of their negative acts in the society; and the non-guilty types. It is assumed that the various choices made for treatment could be influenced by the culturally constructed conceptualisations revealed by the linguistic features analysed in this work. While some patients believe that their sickness is spiritual and the treatment for it should be spiritual, others go to hospital to seek medical care.

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