RACISM AND AMERICAN PSYCHIATRY

HISTORY 390S.02

Lunatic asylums in the US South offer a fertile context to explore the impact of white settler colonialism on the development of psychiatry in the United States.  This haunting affects us today, when ninety percent of psychiatric beds are in jails and prisons in a era of mass incarceration that became a “new Jim Crow.”  Using Georgia’s iconic state hospital founded in its antebellum capital of Milledgeville as a starting point, this course examines how the state mediated between the psyches of setter-citizens and native and enslaved people through the founding and administration of lunatic asylums/mental hospitals in the 19th and 20th centuries and their “deinstitutionalization” in the 21st.

We will also study North Carolina’s asylums, taking advantage of new archival sources as Raleigh shapes 300 acres of the former Dix Hospital into a huge city park. We will use field trips, guest speakers, asylum ledgers and reports, patients’ case histories, novels, films, newspapers, the American Journal of Insanity, court cases, and the Durham County Jail to examine how “crazy” and  “sane” were constituted in systems of diagnosis and treatment and how people within and beyond these institutions resisted with solidarities, indigenous spiritual practices, more equitable science, and movements for justice.

Crosslisting Numbers

AAAS 390S; SOCIOL 390S; GLHLTH 390S

Curriculum Codes: 

CCI, CZ

Theme (Concentration)

Medicine, Science and Technology, Race and Ethnicity

Region

United States and Canada