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Internationalism and Health. Local Responses to Colonial Medicine. Aaron Pascal Mauck MA, PhD. 2/28/2013. DATE. LECTURER. Medicine and Social Control The Psychopathology of the Colonized The Psychopathology of Colonization Postcolonial Responses . Medicine and Social Control.

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internationalism and health
Internationalism and Health

Local Responses to Colonial Medicine

Aaron Pascal Mauck MA, PhD





Medicine and Social Control

  • The Psychopathology of the Colonized
  • The Psychopathology of Colonization
  • Postcolonial Responses

Medicine and Social Control

  • Prior to the twentieth century, medicine primarily
  • Functions to protect colonizers, not the colonized
  • environmental determinism suggests that Europeans
  • are at greater risk than natives tropical climates
  • a nearly unlimited labor supply in many colonial
  • states, coupled with limited state resources,
  • limits colonial interest in protecting the health of
  • native workers
  • emphasis is placed on policing borders as a means
  • of controlling the spread of disease (the border
  • between the colonial center and the colonial
  • periphery, and the border between white and
  • non-white bodies in the colonies themselves)

Medicine and Social Control

  • Constructive Colonialism increases the importance of
  • Medicine as a colonial function. Medicine becomes
  • A form of politics by other means:
  • Greater coordination between industry and the state
  • for the extraction of raw materials places a premium
  • on the health of workers as a prerequisite for
  • efficient production (less the case where labor supply
  • remains inexhaustible)
  • Germ theory and tropical medicine bring new experts
  • and expertise to the colonies, leading to new forms
  • of intervention predicated on eradicating disease in the
  • environment as well as in black and white bodies
  • Medicine comes to be represented as a depoliticized
  • social good, even as the benefits of other aspects of
  • colonialism are starting to be questioned

Medicine and Social Control

  • The depoliticized nature of colonial medicine allows it to
  • perform ostensibly political acts in the name of science
  • with little threat of challenge from the colonial center
  • Quarantine and isolation of individuals without consent
  • Treatment of individuals with little or no consent
  • Eviction from insanitary housing
  • Forced migration from insanitary areas
  • Forced changes in agricultural production techniques
  • Destruction of crops
  • Institutionalization and incarceration

The Psychopathology of the Colonized

The rise of the Protectorate Model of Governance in the Thirties

places a new emphasis on bringing European medical knowledge

and practices to the colonial periphery as a tool of colonial

self-development– including psychiatric knowledge and practices

The model of shared political control leads to tensions between ostensibly

universal, objective, and depoliticized medical knowledge and its

the application in colonial settings experiencing different political and

Economic realities

The limited economic resources offered by the colonial center for

medical and public health services leads to a basic disjuncture between

Colonial promises and colonial realities

Similarly, perceived failures of shared leadership and economic development

manifest themselves in the form of poor life chances for many

Colonized peoples. By the forties, this increasingly finds expression in

calls for full independence


The Psychopathology of Colonization


“It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness- an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder

W.E.B. Du Bois


The Psychopathology of Colonization

Born in Martinique in 1925, his interest in racism and colonialism stems in part from

His experience with Vichy French Naval

troops during WWII. Fanon Fled Martinique as a Gaullist and fought in North Africa with the Allied Forces.

Qualifies as a psychiatrist in 1951, serves as a psychiatrist in Algeria from 1954-1957

In Algeria, he developed socio-therapy, which connected treatment to the cultural backgrounds of his patients. From this position he challenged prevailing

representations of colonial madness or the “dependence syndrome” as psychological phenomena independent of social and

Economic conditions.

Frantz Fanon


The Double-Consciousness of the colonized might have led to destructive psychic

effects, but these effects could not be isolated from the conditions of colonialism

Itself. This suggested that colonialism itself was a principle source of psychosis.


Algerian War (1954-1962)

Protracted war of Algerian

independence from France.

represents an Important step in the

development of postcolonial ideology

Although characterized by extreme

violence on both sides, this violence

Came to be represented by

Advocates of independence (like Fanon)

As a legitimate form of political

engagement, but was often

Represented by the French as

Illustrating the “return of the repressed”

Among the colonized.


Mau Mau Uprising (1952-1960)

Kenyan anticolonial uprising largely related

To the expropriation of Kikuyu land and

Consequent transformation of subsistence

Farmers into landless laborers.

Suppressed by the British by isolating the

Kikuyu tribe from other ethnic groups

in Kenya, and relocating suspected Mau Mau

to work camps.

Official British report of the uprising ignored

Social and economic explanations linked to

The effects of colonialism in favor of a psychoanalytic explanation offered by

The ethnopsychiatrist JC Carothers. In the report, the uprising was presented as "an irrational force of evil, dominated by bestial impulses and influenced by world communism.”


Representations of Mau Mau

suppress politics in favor of depoliticized,

psychoanalytically suggestive images

of tribal peoples in the grip of madness

Longstanding association between

tribalism and madness (or irrationality)

-anthropological assessments

of magical practices or ecstatic states

-popular representations of

uncontrolled violence or sexuality

Colonial psychiatry thus functions to

transform legitimate political claims

into expressions of mental illness, just as

colonial medicine sometimes functions

to transform social or economic problems

Into purely medical problems



Opposition to the cultural, political, and economic consequences of

Colonialism often constructed as a form of psychopathology from

The teens until the sixties.

This representation meant that psychiatry (and to some extent medicine

as a whole) worked to encourage colonial control in a depoliticized way,

Even as more explicitly political advocacy of colonialism fell out of fashion

Anticolonial and Postcolonial ideology reconceptualize representations

Of colonial madness as legitimate reactions to the conditions colonized

peoples encounter, and use incidences of madness to justify claims

for independence