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Considering chapter 3 from Madness in the City, did formerly enslaved people’s use of Saint Elizabeth serve another purpose besides asserting their right to use the institution for medical care? — Ruth Curran

Considering chapter 3 from Madness in the City, How would the white people’s view of freed enslaved people affect their ability to integrate into their lives as free people? — Ruth Curran

Chapter Five discusses how many attendants were captured by the Confederates and used as medical personnel for their war cause. Patients were also kidnapped, and there does not seem to be any, let alone enough emphasis on keeping track of these patients and attendants. I think the fact that they were African American made them appear to be more expendable. Joey Welch

Were more African Americans “cured” and discharged during this period? Or were there simply more admissions, which led to lines of thinking more in line with J.F. Miller. -RJD

“By the 1880s and 1890s another concept of degeneration circulated within medical and intellectual circles, positing that African Americans were on the verge of extinction due to their inability to physically adjust to modern society.” (80).

What circles exactly did this theory circulate through? Extinction is a very strong word, considering around 4 million were previously enslaved were freed by 1863. -RJD

1. Gonaver mentions struggles finding employees that plagued Central Lunatic Asylum; after asylums were segregated, what did the employee body for the two different types look like? Was there a stigma attached to working at the all black asylum that might have made it more difficult to find employees? - Morgan

2. In the introduction, Summers touches on an interesting notion of privacy for former patients, stating that, unless a patient's name was used publicly outside of hospital records, he would only refer to them by first name and last initial. In what ways have other scholars we've read answered the question of how much privacy one should afford patients, particularly Gonaver? - Morgan

1. The juxtaposition between D.C. being a place where the mental institutions should be the best and serve as a model for the world, while still having extremely separate institutions for African Americans is very interesting. How did it compare to other institutions across the country?-Margie Jones

2. Do we still see the effects of the thinking that people who are more “primitive” or “agrarian” are immune to mental illness? What was the initial reasoning behind this thinking?-Margie Jones

1. Towards the beginning of chapter 5 of Gonaver’s The Peculiar Institution and the Making of Modern Psychiatry Gonaver mentions how even after the passage of the 14th and 15th amendment, institutionalized Black patients were not affected since they were not legally entitled to liberties of ordinary citizens anyway. This reminded me of something Tomes mentioned in her work when she said that white men had to accommodate to the lack of rights as patients in the Pennsylvania Hospital since white men were used to never being marginalized. In what Gonaver was saying in chapter 5 is kinda like the other hand of this, where Black patients were not used to having rights anyway but did not get the immediate chance to experience these new rights after the end of the war. -Teresa

2. In Summers’ Madness in the City, it is mentioned that many slave owners had the “benevolent master” mindset and believed keeping their slaves working “relatively stress-free agrarian lives” would keep them away from mental illnesses. Despite this, Saint Elizabeths admitted African American patients starting in 1855. What do you think caused them to start admitting African American patients? What was the first case they admitted? -Teresa

1.In Madness in the City the author briefly mentions that during the antebellum period, there was a widespread belief that African-Americans were immune to “insanity” or mental illness. Is there any evidence as to why this was a common belief? -NG

2. Gonaver mentions that many African-American women’s diagnosis of imbelicity was classified as being caused by religion. How was this connection justified? -NG

1. In our reading by Martin Summers, it states that “the number of insane Americans had increased by a remarkable 145 percent between 1870 and 1880, as an average of 54.5 percent during the two preceding decades.” I’m curious to know why the numbers increased so rapidly during this time period as compared to the previous. -Jake Martin

2. Why was the rising rates of “insanity” within the African American population during this time seen as a way for people to push the psychiatric theory that mental illness was caused by situations within civilization? To me, this seems like a way for Southerners to instill their racist ideologies into a bigger picture and culture during the reconstruction period following the war. -Jake Martin

1. It’s interesting how at institutions like St. Elizabeth’s, there was a significant barrier in treatment between white psychiatrists and black patients, in part due to the idea of a “presumption of a primitive, or child-like, black psyche” among institutionalists. In what ways then was being black seemingly considered by these institutionalists and psychiatrists itself a mental disorder? -RM

2. The idea of a “disease of civilization” is very interesting to me for its many layers of screwed up that it is—in the modern day I think there is a lot of talk about “rejecting society” and turning back to the “natural way.” Those ideas are never framed as particularly regressive or primitive, however, and are generally seen quite positively these days. That idea, while on its face neutral, is much the same one that people like Gooding used to argue that freed formerly enslaved people “couldn’t handle” the pressures of modern society, implicitly (if not explicitly) saying that freedmen were too “primitive” to understand society, and it was up to whites to “help” them, either through an economic apparatus like slavery, or a medical apparatus like an asylum. -RM

2023-471g4--week_5_day_2.txt · Last modified: 2023/09/28 16:02 by