Stambali: DissociativE Possession and Trance in a Tunisian Healing Dance

Eli Somer, Meir Saadon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study investigated Stambali, a Tunisian trance-dance practiced in Israel as a healing and a demon exorcism ritual by Jewish-Tunisian immigrants. The authors observed the ritual and conducted semi-structured ethnographic interviews with key informants. Content analysis revealed that Stambali is practiced for prophylactic reasons (e.g. repelling the ‘evil eye’), for the promotion of personal well-being, and as a form of crisis intervention. Crisis was often construed by our informants as the punitive action of demons, and the ritual aimed at appeasing them. Communication with the possessing demons was facilitated through a kinetic trance induction, produced by an ascending tempo of rhythmic music and a corresponding increased speed of the participant's movements of head and extremities. The experience was characterized by the emergence of dissociated eroticism and aggression, and terminated in a convulsive loss of consciousness. Stambali is discussed in terms of externalization and disowning of intrapsychic conflicts by oppressed women with few options for protest.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)580-600
Number of pages21
JournalTranscultural Psychiatry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2000


  • dance
  • demon possession
  • dissociative trance
  • Israel
  • Stambali
  • Tunisia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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