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Book Chapter

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During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries travelers to the South Seas brought back stories of a Malaysian emotional syndrom called amok, in which a person rushes around in a state of frenzy, recklessly attacking anyone who gets in the way, and impervious to all attempts at restraint. No Western language had a word that meant the same thing as amok, and Westerners were fascinated by this bizarre phenomenon. Fascinated, but not mystified. Amok was strange, but it was not unrecognizable, and the term "running amok" was quickly incorporated into Western speech to refer to a kind of violent frenzy that had previously been nameless.


Reproduced by permission of Oxford University Press.