Madness in Buenos Aires: Patients, Psychiatrists, and the Argentine State, 1880-1983

Synopsis

This book examines the interactions between psychiatrists, patients, and their families, and the national state in modern Argentina. This book offers a fresh interpretation of the Argentine state's relationship to modernity and social change during the twentieth century, while also examining the often contentious place of psychiatry in modern Argentina. Drawing on a number of previously untapped archival sources, Jonathan Ablard uses the experience of psychiatric patients as a case study of how the Argentine state developed and functioned over the last century and of how Argentines interacted with it. Ablard argues that the capacity of the Argentine state to provide social services and professional opportunities and to control the populace was often constrained to an extent not previously recognised in the scholarly literature. These limitations, including a shortage of hospitals, insufficient budgets, and political and economic instability, shaped the experiences of patients, their families, and doctors and also influenced medical and lay ideas about the nature and significance of mental illness. Furthermore, these experiences, and the institutional framework in which they were imbedded, had a profound impact on how Argentine psychiatrists discussed, not only mental illness, but also a host of related themes, including immigration, poverty, and the role of the state in mitigating social problems. Co-published with Ohio University Press.