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Demonic Possession: Spatial and Cultural Accounts of Domestic Violence in Malaysia

SAHDAN, ZURIATUNFADZLIAH,BINTI (2019) Demonic Possession: Spatial and Cultural Accounts of Domestic Violence in Malaysia. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Despite the vast research globally on the domestic violence, there is a little understanding of the experiences of multiracial women survivors in non-western countries. The overall image of domestic violence that emerges from the literature tends to concentrate on a privileged epistemological standpoint in western theory. Domestic violence is thus only understood in culturally-specific terms, as initially posited by white western feminists. Adopting a qualitative and participatory approach drawing on postcolonial theories, this paper presents the spatial and cultural accounts of multiracial women survivors of abusive relationships in Malaysia. The findings reveal that abused women lived in a form of intimate captivity under the perpetrator’s intimate control centred on women’s psyche and body. As a form of entrapment, every action or sign of resistance from the women is countered with various tactics by the perpetrator. This prevents the abused women fleeing, leading to a coercive relationship and rendering them possessed. As a result, the notion of demonic possession is used by survivors, perpetrators and wider Malay society as a metaphor for domestic violence, and also as a narrative to both help make sense of or excuse it. This story of demonic possession works in this way because of its close fit with the social patterns and individual experiences of domestic violence. Both the behaviour of perpetrators, and the symptoms that women suffering from abuse commonly experience, resonate with societal beliefs about demonic possession. Indeed, what might otherwise be understood as symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, and the cumulative effects on personality and identity of victims of long-term abuse, are identified as either causes or consequences of demonic possession by many of the survivors and perpetrators in this study. Through this focus on the nature and experience of domestic violence in Malaysia, the thesis thus highlights the significance of culturally-sensitive approaches to domestic violence as a counterpoint to western-centric understandings. It also stresses the need for culturally specific approaches to awareness raising and knowledge enhancement in Malaysia.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Domestic violence, trauma, postcolonialism, demonic possession, Participatory Action Research (PAR)
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Geography, Department of
Thesis Date:2019
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:13 Jun 2019 08:14

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