This question and answer addresses the psycho-spiritual intersection of geopolitics and medicine in the borderlands between Yemen and Saudi Arabia, at the margins of war. It foregrounds the landscape of the hospital, where physicians provide state-of-the-art medical care, all the while attempting to listen and respond to patients’ demand for more than just the recovery of their physical health–what interlocutors refer to as 'afiya, a physical, psychic, and spiritual well-being that exceeds the provisions of the biomedical model and its understanding of “health.” Hauter will reflect on the case of a Yemeni refugee hospitalized in Saudi Arabia for a persistent jaundice, Kareem, who speaks of his looming fear that his nafs (self/soul) would “break” if his request for medical care were to be rejected. While physically safe and secure in his hospital bed, Kareem longed to return to Yemen to be in the care of an indigenous healer (mushfi).

Strangely, then, his fear of the break of the soul/self-exceeded the fright he felt as he crossed a desert border on foot amidst mountain predators and border militias. Drawing on theories of the soul/self and the psyche in al-Ghazali, Ibn Sina, and Freud, and in light of the evolving historical and political relations between Yemen and Saudi Arabia, Hauter will explore how soul-fracture becomes a figure of postcolonial and wartime affliction, congealing in its evocation the end of neighborly hospitality and the breaking of a shared lineage: the abject Yemeni, exiled from her own region and the broader Muslim community. This talk lingers with the symptoms of fear and fright, arguing that the reformation (iṣlāḥ) of the nexus of ‘afiya, requires more than even the recognition of spiritual healing and biomedical relief.

Live Q & A with speaker.


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