'A German whore and no money at that’: insanity and the moral and political economies of German South West Africa

Mattia Fumanti*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

While the links between colonial psychiatry and racism figure prominently in histories of the diagnosis, treatment and institutionalisation of the mentally ill in Africa, there is an absence of patient-centred accounts, in the analysis of the efforts of the colonial-era subjects themselves to be pro-active not merely as the mentally ill, by clinical or court definition, but as persons embedded in social relationships with their kin and significant others. Moreover, despite an emerging scholarship, little is known of the experience of European settlers. In this respect there is a need for a more balanced representation, one that shows the ambivalence of colonial psychiatry and its reach into the lives of colonial subjects, Africans and Europeans alike. In this paper I focus on the narratives of a settler in German South West Africa and her efforts to escape diagnosis and institutionalisation. In building on a feminist approach to illness narratives, in particular on the idea of bearing empathic witness, I will explore the ways in which illness narratives can reveal the complex moral and political economies of the colonial world.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)382-403
Number of pages22
JournalCulture, Medicine, and Psychiatry
Volume44
Issue number3
Early online date18 Nov 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2020

Keywords

  • Mental illness
  • Narratives
  • Feminist ethics
  • Gender
  • Moral and political economies
  • German South West Africa

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