Amok and Lattah


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Abstract

Discusses two psychopathological phenomena of the Malay culture, Amok and Lattah. Amok refers to the horrific, unexpected, murderous attack in the tropical rest of the “kampong” (village). Lattah refers to the “note gaie” in the daily contact between a family and its household staff. It is contended that study of these psychic abnormalities is of great interest because of their specific nature and symptoms (showing some characteristic qualities of the Malay race) and because a deeper insight into those psychic aberrations of primitive people, having a less complicated psychic structure, is of great value to the study of the psychoses of cultured races. Amok is considered an acute, mostly infectious delirium, while the peculiar psychic nature of the Malay is responsible for the symptoms which render this syndrome entirely different from similar ones in Europe. The symptoms of Lattah are described as in consequence of a fright or some other sudden emotion; the startled patient screams, after which she repeats everything that is said, called out or done in front of her (echolally and echopraxis); besides she does everything she is told to do, including actions entirely adverse to her habits and inclinations (automatism by command). These compulsory symptoms can be kept up as long as one wishes by using the element of fright again and again; they disappear as soon as the patient is spoken to quietly and soothed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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