‘Psychosis of civilization’: A colonial-situated diagnosis

AHP readers may be interested in a new piece in History of Psychiatry, “‘Psychosis of civilization’: a colonial-situated diagnosis,” by Marianna Scarfone. Abstract:

In the late 1930s, when colonial psychiatry was well established in the Maghreb, the diagnosis ‘psychosis of civilization’ appeared in some psychiatrists’ writings. Through the clinical case of a Libyan woman treated by the Italian psychiatrist Angelo Bravi in Tripoli, this article explores its emergence and its specificity in a differential approach, and highlights its main characteristics. The term applied to subjects poised between two worlds: incapable of becoming ‘like’ Europeans – a goal to which they seem to aspire – but too far from their ‘ancestral habits’ to revert for a quiet life. The visits of these subjects to colonial psychiatric institutions, provided valuable new material for psychiatrists: to see how colonization impacted inner life and to raise awareness of the long-term socio-political dangers.

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a professor at Quest University Canada. A critical feminist psychologist and historian of psychology, she is committed to critical pedagogy and public engagement with feminist psychology and the history of the discipline.

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