Study Guide for Scheper-Hughes’“Saints, Scholars, and Schizophrenics”
Preface to the 1982 Paperback (pp. xv-xxi)
1. Do the subjects of anthropological studies usually read published reports about
their ways of life? Did they read Scheper-Hughes’book? Explain.
a. Typically, no, the anthropological study subjects don’t read the published
reports about their ways of life. This is because the subjects usually live in
“exotic” cultures. Usually the natives know nothing about what has been
written about them. Sometimes the anthropologist might send a copy of
the ethnography, but it is usually displayed in town instead of read.
b. This was NOT the case of those who have studied “modern” cultures, and
particular the most literate and self-reflexive people, the rural Irish. Their
reaction to, analysis of, and commentary on anthropological writing
generally has been swift, frequently harsh, and (at least for the
ethnographer) most unsettling.
2. Did the people of Ballybran lose or gain anything by virtue of Scheper-Hughes’
a. LOST- until now an unchallenged native interpretation of the meaning of
their lives as ones based on the implicitly cherished values of familistic
loyalty, obedience, and sacrifice.
3. What were the villagers’complaints against S-H’s book?
Prologue to the Original 1977 Edition (pp. xxvii-xxviii)
1. Who was Mag Moriarty, and why does S-H discuss her?
a. Mag Moriarty- in her lifetime she had seen the last of the curachs brave
theAtlantic for mackerel, the Irish storyteller turn his back to the hearth
Preface to the Y2000 Edition (p. xiii)
1. Main points
Introduction (Mental Illness and Irish Culture)
1. What broad perspectives and questions provide the orientation for S-H’s study?
a. Both psychological and social structural
b. Examine the interplay of historical circumstance and economic
determinants with the largely symbolic spheres of beliefs, values, and
i. MYWORDS- examine how history and economics relate and
influence each other in terms of beliefs, values, and behavior
c. Emphasize the importance of the antithetical social spheres of the sexes to
the quality of the emotional life, as well as the oppositional role of older to
younger siblings i. MYWORDS- emphasize how the connected social spheres of the
sexes and quality of emotional life are connected and the
contrasting role of older to younger siblings
d. Major Hypothesis- these preordained age and sex statuses are pivotal in
defining parental expectations for their children, and result in entirely
different socialization and later life experiences- weighted in favor of the
mental health of girls and earlier born sons, and against the chances for
healthy ego-integration of later-born male children
i. MYWORDS-Aparent’s expectation for their children is strongly
based the child’s sex and age. Sex and age determines how the
child will be socialized and how their later life will end up. Girls
and earlier born sons have a higher chance for better mental health.
Healthy ego-integrated later-born male children will have a higher
chance for poor mental health.
2. Define “participant observation” and discuss S-H’s use of this standard fieldwork
3. What use did S-H make of interviews, and how did these interviews relate to a
4. What projective tests did she administer? What advantages did these tests have
over other means of gathering data?
5. Did S-H have help in conducting her research?
6. What concerns and anxieties did she have about the moral issues associated with
7. What is cultural relativity?
8. What difficulties attend the study of mental illness?
9. Is Ballybran a completely atypical or highly unusual Irish village?
Chapter 1 – In Space and In Time
1. Briefly describe Ballybran’s physical layout, social structure, and modes of
a. Physical Layout
b. Social Structure
i. Mountain Villagers
1. shepherds, fishermen, and dairy farmers
2. claim continuous residence in the parish as far back as the
first settlement by seafaring Mediterranean Celts
3. long, lean, finely sculpted (fair Norman complexion)
ii. “Urbane” Families
1. provide the educational, religious, and recreational needs of
the resident farming and fishermen population
2. teachers, postmen, politicians, nurses, auto repairmen,
iii. “Equality and classlessness are strongly defended ideals… but the
children of teachers rarely play with children of shopkeepers… shopkeepers of farmers… and almost no one plays with the
children of the shepherds.” Page 78
c. Modes of Economic Production
i. No public transportation leads to the parish today
2. In what terms does S-H characterize Ballybran’s worldview and ethos?
a. Similar to other lasting isolated mountain and hill communities in Europe
b. Fear and mistrust outsiders
c. Are intensely familistic and tightly endogamous
i. Familistic: of or relating to
ii. Endogamous: the custom of marrying only within the limits of a
local community, clan, or tribe
d. View their terrain as a holy geography, their past as a religious history, and
their language as a sacred tongue
3. What survivals of Celtic culture exist in the village’s natural environment,
religious beliefs, and social practices?
4. When did the historical period begin in the parish?
5. Who is St. Brendan?
a. "The Navigator", "the Voyager", or "the Bold"
b. One of the early Irish monastic saints
c. Renowned for his legendary quest to the "Isle of the Blessed," also called
Saint Brendan's Island. The Voyage of Saint Brendan could be called an
immram (Irish navigational story).
d. He was one of the TwelveApostles of Ireland.
6. What does S-H mean when she says that St. Brendan’s monastic theology left its
imprint on both Irish Catholicism and the ascetic personality of the Irish
7. In what ways have Celtic and Catholic beliefs merged together?
8. What reflections do you see in parish history of the historical antagonism between
the English and the Irish?
9. What and when was the Great Famine?
b. Sometimes referred to, mostly outside Ireland, as the Irish Potato Famine
i. One-third of the population was then solely reliant on this cheap
crop for a number of historical reasons
c. Mass starvation, disease and emigration
i. Approximately 1 million people died and a million more emigrated
ii. Ireland’s population fell between 20% and 25%
d. The proximate cause of famine was a potato disease commonly known as
Chapter 2 – The People Left Behind
1. In broad terms, how has the quality of life in western Ireland changed since the
2. Define “familism.” a. Adependency upon and reciprocity within wide circles of near and “far
b. Rent beyond recognition given the virtual disappearance of the necessary
3. Briefly outline the decline in population and the change in household composition
in Ballybran over the last century.
a. Prior to the Great Famine of 1845-1849
i. Population: 2,772
ii. Early marriage was the norm
iii. Families were large
b. During the Famine
i. Population: reduced to half
ii. Adaptive reversal of marriage and birth patterns
iii. Aspiraling emigration rate
c. After the Famine
i. 1965 Census- Population: 645
ii. 1972- last marriage to take place and has yet to produce an heir
iii. 1974-1975: 38 deaths and 15 emigrations were offset by only 4
births. No matches, engagements, or marriages. Only the most
furtively hinted at and fleeting courtships
i. Average age at marriage for Ballybran couples is considerably later
than for elsewhere in the Republic: 34 years for men; 28 years for
ii. Only 1 in every 3 adult males is married
iii. Few married couples vale the 7-9 children household that use to be
so popular in the parish
1. Now use a very successful form of birth control- total
2. Want to achieve their desire limit of 2 or 3 children
iv. The majority of middle-aged adults live alone or with one or more
members of their family of origin
e. In Ballybran the curves become fixated at the second stage
i. With unmarried adult children staying on in the paternal
household, or they end abruptly as children do not only want to
leave their natal families but leave Ballybran as well
f. Ballybran is turning from a healthy conjugal community to a sick and
dying celibate community
4. How has the nature of rural Irish women’s emigration changed since World War
a. Previously, village girls spent periods of time from 2 to 5 years abroad in
order to earn dowry money for a suitable match back home
i. Dowry: property or money brought by a bride to her husband on
b. Now, village girls leave to go abroad with no intention of returning i. Vocal dissatisfaction of their mothers, who want a better life for
their daughters than they themselves had
5. Compare statistics on the male and female farm population in Kerry Country.
Note the problems of celibacy, childlessness, and aging of the Irish farm
6. What influences have these demographic problems had on agricultural
development and values associated with traditional life?
7. Discuss the assumptions about traditional agrarian life that has informed the
agricultural policies of the Irish government.
i. Fathers still rule imperiously over their children
ii. Competition over inheritance of land is intense