Similarities and differences in the management of psychiatric disorders by the colonial empires: An historical overview

MASSIMILIANO BUOLI, ALDO SABINO GIANNULI

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Colonial psychiatry represented the first, despite distorted, attempt to interpret psychiatric symptoms in non-Western cultures. This psychiatry, therefore, laid the roots for the subsequent development of ethnopsychiatry, but it also represented the first example of the political use of this discipline. Purpose of the present article is to provide a critical review about the management of psychiatric disorders in the different colonial empires. We critically summarized relevant literature about theory and practice of colonial psychiatry in the different European empires. All the colonial empires were characterized by few resources destined to mental health both for the colonizers, but especially for the local populations. The British used reports from psychiatric hospitals to maintain political control over the colonies. French colonial psychiatry focused more on cultural assimilation, while the Dutch one was based on theories of racial inferiority of local populations. In Italy, colonial psychiatry focused more on the differences between the north and south of the country than on non-European territories. Although with differences between the various empires, colonial psychiatry provided means and support for the political and social control of the occupied territories.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-119
Number of pages7
JournalRivista di Psichiatria
Volume56
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021

Keywords

  • Colonial empires
  • Colonial psychiatry
  • Cultural issues
  • Inequality
  • Mental health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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