10 Pages

The Universality of Nerves

The aim of this brief article is to present a hypothesis that addresses the universalist-particularist debate. To place under scrutiny a particular syndrome such as nerves is to focus on what is commonly identified as a culture-bound syndrome, meaning a set of symptoms encountered in a culturally discrete context (Simons, 1985), as, for example, nerves in Latin America. We are led to ask: "Is a condition such as nerves indeed culture bound, or is it universally experienced by all humans?" This question bears on the cultural relativity versus the universality of a set of symptoms and on the ways in which the individual's experience of the syndrome relates to the sociocultural conditions of his or her existence. Here we attend to the body as a physiological entity and as it is embedded in society and culture.