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American Insanity: A Historiography of Mental Illness (1780-1920)

Journal: NETSOL: New Trends in Social and Liberal Sciences (Vol.1, No. 1)

Publication Date:

Authors : ;

Page : 21-35

Keywords : Historiography; Mental Illness; Insanity;

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The topic of mental illness and its treatment did not become a popular subject for historical research until the 1960s. New Left and Social historians had begun to study the history of the working class, thus expanding the interests of the researcher beyond the social elite. However, few historians chose to study social deviance or mental illness until the publication of Michel Foucault's Madness and Civilization in 1961. Foucault's work examines culturally created “discourse” as a system of power and discipline within society. Those who do not adhere to the discourse are excluded from the social body. According to Foucault, the asylum serves as a corrective disciplinary measure in order to protect society and ensure “normality”. The institution becomes society's way of re-educating its deviants. This idea is further examined in his work Discipline and Punish (1975).

Last modified: 2017-06-12 15:19:24