Academic journal article The International Journal of African Historical Studies

Surfacing Up: Psychiatry and Social Order in Colonial Zimbabwe, 1908-1968

Academic journal article The International Journal of African Historical Studies

Surfacing Up: Psychiatry and Social Order in Colonial Zimbabwe, 1908-1968

Article excerpt

Surfacing Up: Psychiatry and Social Order in Colonial Zimbabwe, 1908-1968. By Lynette A. Jackson. Cornell Studies in the History of Psychiatry. Sander Gilman and George Makari, eds. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2005. Pp. xxi, 230; 12 illustrations. $55.00/£31.50 cloth, $24.95/ £14.50 paper.

This extensively researched book contributes to a growing base of scholarship about psychiatry in the age of high imperialism in two ways. Most significantly, it adds to the sites that scholars have explored by presenting a history of psychiatry in Southern Rhodesia, or as the author somewhat anachronistically calls it, "colonial Zimbabwe," through an account of the Ingutsheni asylum near BuIawayo. Second, it offers insight into the clinical encounter at Ingutsheni through a close reading of hundreds of patients' case files. The goal of this analysis is to use the psychiatric encounter as a frame for the larger history of colonialism in Rhodesia. While the project succeeds in many ways, and will therefore be useful to Africanists and historians of psychiatry, several important lapses limit the book's potential.

Based on deep research at the National Archives of Zimbabwe, Surfacing Up aims at an explication of how medical practice was "imbedded" with colonial ideology and prejudice (p. 13). In so doing, Jackson builds on a growing literature on psychiatry and colonialism in the British Empire. Pathbreaking studies by Megan Vaughan and Jonathan Sadowsky serve as a starting point for Jackson, who argues that the use of case records provides for a richer social history of colonial psychiatry than earlier works' preoccupation with discourse. The book thus highlights such important social phenomena as labor, gender, law, and religion in addition to the organization and practices of the clinic in its linking of psychiatry and empire.

The author's attention to the gendered dimensions of psychiatric confinement and treatment takes the existing literature in an important new direction. Jackson argues that patients' sex played a critical role in determining both how they were bound up in the colonial system and how they came to authorities' attention as proper cases for confinement. Men "surfaced up" through their involvement in labor migration and the legal system; their patterns of internment therefore highlight the extent to which these systems contributed to British control over colonial space and populations. …

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