Mal'uocchiu: Ambiguity, Evil Eye, and the Language of Distress


159 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-8020-7922-9
DDC 306.4




Reviewed by Lyn Clark

Lyn Clark is a PhD candidate in adult education and counselling at the
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto.


The author of this interdisciplinary study defines Mal’uocchiu as a
folk concept that is, at heart, ambiguous, vague, and variable in its
uses, with meanings that are relative to their cultural, historical, and
situational context. His aim is to provide an alternative voice by
unraveling the various meanings that Sicilian Canadians communicate
through their “language of distress.” With the help of a traditional
healer, he has sorted out the nature and organization of “ambiguous”
or fuzzy concepts.

The evil eye—the notion that a look or a stare can cause human
suffering in its object—is most fully explored only when the
Mediterranean worldview of drawing a distinction between good and evil
is integrated into studies of people’s experiences. Migliori’s case
studies provide the context and detail necessary to allow the reader to
understand the meaning behind the narrative and the profound effect
mal’uocchiu has on connection, and on healing that begins with the

This book could prove helpful to anthropologists and ethnographers;
scholars and researchers needing a postmodern research model; medical
professionals treating patients without a discernible physical cause of
illness; traditional healers and nonspecialists engaged in the use of
healing rituals; and psychotherapists interested in intersubjectivity
(particularly as it involves imbalances of power in relationships).


Migliori, Sam., “Mal'uocchiu: Ambiguity, Evil Eye, and the Language of Distress,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 24, 2024,