Purkhani as a ‘healing drama’

Analysis of a healing performance among Turkmen people of Iran

  • Mahnaz Alimardanian
Keywords: Iran, Turkmen people, medical anthropology, purkhani, dramatic action, healing drama, healing performance, performance approach


In recent decades the presence of dramatic actions in healing has been recognized and analysed through a performance approach in anthropology. Scholars have highlighted the dramatic features of healing performances around the world, and some, applying notions such as ‘catharsis’, ‘charismatic healing’ and ‘geographic healing’ to such performances, have thereby bridged the gap between theatre and medicine. The question remains as to how far such analysis can be pursued in the interdisciplinary field between performance studies and medical anthropology. Is it possible to argue that dramatic characteristics and elements are not only props in the construction of healing rites, but also essential aspects of the healing process itself? In this article I mobilize some general analytical categories within performance studies to investigate the dramatic aspects of a healing ceremony, purkhani, among Turkmen people of Northern Iran. I suggest that dramatic actions have genuine efficacy in the healing process, even though purkhani is no longer performed in the ideal traditional way.