The mad are like savages and the savages are mad

Psychopolitics and the coloniality of the psy

Authored by: China Mills

Routledge International Handbook of Critical Mental Health

Print publication date:  September  2017
Online publication date:  September  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138225473
eBook ISBN: 9781315399584
Adobe ISBN:


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In many different parts of the world, at different times, psychiatry has been a tool in the coloniser’s box of techniques; differently, although sometimes simultaneously, employed to control, pacify or eliminate indigenous, colonised and/or enslaved peoples. A key role that psychiatry has played as a tool of colonialism is in the reconfiguration of resistance as individual pathology or madness, foreclosing structural analysis of dissent as underpinned by racial and colonial logics. This chapter emerges from the uncomfortable question of whether psychiatry (and the disciplines of the psy) can be both a tool of more traditional colonialism and a form of colonialism itself, and explores the continued coloniality of psychiatrisation. The discussion traces the interlacing histories of colonialism and psychiatry and their co-constitutive metaphors of savagery and madness, in order to think through what this means for current forms of global psychiatrisation and for the development of psychopolitical and epistemologically diverse alternatives.

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