The Shaping of Colonial Psychiatry

in Colonial Madness

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print May 2007 | ISBN: 9780226429724
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226429779 | DOI:
The Shaping of Colonial Psychiatry

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This chapter shows that psychiatry in metropolitan France had reached a state of crisis. The asylum-based model of care through confinement that had marked the profession's development in the nineteenth century had largely failed as a therapeutic solution. Given the undesirability of merely transplanting a failed technology for the management of insanity to a new environment, the intense scrutiny of the problems that plagued the North African maristans also prompted a reassessment of the foundational principles of modern psychiatry. By focusing on the struggle to build a psychiatric infrastructure in Algeria in the 1920s, the chapter explores an emphasis on innovation that guided colonial psychiatry through the twentieth century. Psychiatrists such as Antoine Porot imagined North Africa as a blank slate, unencumbered by the mistakes of psychiatry's history in Europe. It was therefore fertile terrain for the implementation of a new model for the management of mental illness, one that fulfilled Philippe Pinel's legacy by “elevating the madman to the dignity of the patient.”

Keywords: psychiatry; France; insanity; mental illness; Algeria; innovation; Antoine Porot; North Africa; maristans

Chapter.  13430 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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