Spaces of Experimentation, Sites of Contestation

in Colonial Madness

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print May 2007 | ISBN: 9780226429724
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226429779 | DOI:
Spaces of Experimentation, Sites of Contestation

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This chapter explores the everyday realities of life and practice in colonial hospitals. It analyzes the mechanisms of confinement that brought European and Muslim patients into psychiatric care and highlights the differences in their experiences of treatment. Focusing on the period from the early 1930s to the mid-1950s, it examines a moment of prodigious experimentation in psychiatry that saw the development of a range of radical new technologies for the treatment of chronic patients, including convulsive therapies and psychosurgery, but also a “softer” form of treatment in the form of social work and mental hygiene. These new treatments promised to bring psychiatry into parity with other medical specializations, but they did so at an often painful cost to the patient populations of the Maghreb. However, Muslim patients constituted instead a field of experimentation for the testing of more invasive treatments. This chapter explores the stories of these patients as a means of understanding the cultural rifts that opened in the colonial psychiatric clinic, in which the seeking of cures often amounted to a contest over cultural hegemony.

Keywords: colonial hospitals; psychiatric care; patients; experimentation; psychiatry; psychosurgery; social work; mental hygiene; Maghreb; convulsive therapies

Chapter.  15410 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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