Movements and Madness Part 2: The Troubles with Estu

Robert Lemelson, PhD, FPR; UCLA

This is the second film in a series exploring the lives of Balinese and Javanese individuals who have been subjects in longitudinal research on the relationships between neuropsychiatric disorders, subjectivity, phenomenology, and cultural models of the person and emotion. This one-hour film explores the life of a young man, Estu, from rural central Java. Estu initially entered into the research project because he displayed symptoms of what was diagnosed psychiatrically as Tourette’s syndrome. It is locally understood as saradan, which was previously classified as a type of “bad habit” and locally understood as characterological in nature, but increasingly is seen as a form of “nervous disorder” (penyakit syaraf). However, as the film progresses it becomes evident that his Tourette’s symptoms, or saradan, while of psychiatric or cultural interest, are clearly not the issue disturbing Estu or his family. Instead, it is Estu’s continuous breaking of familial expectations, legal restrictions, and social norms that make him extremely “troublesome.”

The question of which model(s) to use to understand and frame his experiences is central to this film. The tensions between developmental, religious, cultural, and ethical models are each explored at length. Community members, psychiatric consultants, local healers, family members, and Estu himself are interviewed multiple times to uncover what are the issues “at stake” for understanding Estu and his troubles. As the film was shot over a 6-year period, we see both changes in Estu’s behavior and his and others’ interpretations of his acts. The film makes the case for the necessity of a longitudinal, experience-near, and densely contextualized approach in order to come to a more accurate understanding and framing of Estu’s experience.

For future information on the film, please go to http://www.lemyngfilms.com

The 2007 Conference