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Migration, Ethnicity and Mental Illness


There are two main objectives this week. First, to survey and debate an emerging literature that explores the links between migration, ethnicity and mental illness in the historical past in a variety of geographical contexts. Second, we will attempt to relate this work to current issues and concerns preoccupying policy makers and psychiatric practitioners concerning high rates of mental health problems amongst ethnic minority groups. I would like each of you to locate a current (or recent) issue within psychiatry (e.g. concerns about current migration within Europe or the longer-term interest in high rates of mental illness amongst Afro-Caribbean or Irish populations) which focuses upon the links between migration, ethnicity and mental health – some studies will emphasise the stress of migration and social and economic deprivation; others may indicate evidence of racism within health services.

1. How has migration been conceived of as a potential cause of insanity?
2. Gender – rather than ethnicity – has often been presented as a category of analysis in historical studies of mental illness? Could we challenge this emphasis?
3. How can we explain high rates of mental illness amongst migrants and particular ethnic groups?

Angela McCarthy and Catharine Coleborne (eds), Migration, Ethnicity, and Mental Health. International Perspectives, 1840-2010 (New York: Routledge, 2012).

Angela McCarthy, ‘Ethnicity, Migration and the Lunatic Asylum in Early Twentieth-Century Auckland, New Zealand’, Social History of Medicine, 21 (2008), 47-65.

C. Coleborne, ‘Making “Mad” Populations in Settler Colonies: The Work of Law and Medicine in the Creation of a Colonial Asylum’, in D. Kirby and C. Coleborne (eds), Law, History, Colonialism: The Reach of Empire (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2001).

S. Garton, Medicine and Madness: A Social History of Insanity in New South Wales, 1880-1940 (Kensington: New South Wales University Press, 1988). (ebook)

Harriet Jane Deacon, ‘Madness, Race and Moral Treatment: Robben Island Lunatic Asylum, Cape Colony, 1846-1890’, History of Psychiatry, 7 (1996), 287-97.

S. Swartz, ‘Colonising the Insane: Causes of Insanity in the Cape, 1891-1920’, History of Human Sciences, 8 (1995), 39-57.

Joanthan Sadowsky, ‘Psychiatry and Colonial Ideology in Nigeria’, Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 71 (1997), 94-11.

Jack McCulloch, Colonial Psychiatry and the ‘African Mind’ (Cambridge University Press, 1995).

Sander L. Gillman, Difference and Pathology: Stereotypes of Sexuality, Race, and Madness (Cornell University Press, 1985), chapter 5 ‘On the Nexus of Blackness and Madness’, 131-49.

Richard Adair, Bill Forsthye and Joseph Melling, ‘Migration, Family Structure and Pauper Lunacy in Victorian England: Admissions to the Devon County Lunatic Asylum, 1845-1900’, Continuity and Change, 12 (1997), 373-401.

E. Fuller Torrey and Judy Miller, The Invisible Plague: The Rise of Mental Illness from 1750 to the Present (New Brunswick, NJ and London: Rutgers University Press, 2001), esp. Chapter 7 and chapters on US.

Elizabeth Malcolm, ‘”Ireland’s Crowded Madhouses”: The Institutional Confinement of the Insane in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Ireland’, in Roy Porter and David Wright (eds), The Confinement of the Insane: International Perspectives, 1800-1965 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 315-33.

Elizabeth Malcolm, ‘“The House of Strident Shadows”: The Asylum, the Family, and Emigration in Post-Famine Rural Ireland’, in Greta Jones and Elizabeth Malcolm (eds), Medicine, Disease and the State in Ireland, 1650-1940 (Cork: Cork University Press, 1999), pp. 177-91.

Elizabeth Malcolm, ‘“A Most Miserable Looking Object” – The Irish in English Asylums, 1851-1901: Migration, Poverty and Prejudice’, in John Belchem and Klaus Tenfelde (eds), Irish and Polish Migration in Comparative Perspective (Essen: Klartext Verlag, 2003), pp. 121-32. (copies to be distributed)

Vishal Bhasvar and Dinesh Bhugra, ‘Bethlem’s Irish: Migration and Distress in Nineteenth-Century London’, History of Psychiatry, 20 (2009), 184-98 (electronic resource).

John W. Fox, ‘Irish Immigrants, Pauperism, and Insanity in 1854 Massachusetts’, Social Science History, 15 (1991), 315-36.

Oonagh Walsh, ‘“The Designs of Providence”: Race, Religion and Irish Insanity’, in Joseph Melling and Bill Forsythe (eds), Insanity, Institutions and Society, 1800-1914 (London and New York: Routledge, 1999), pp. 223-42.

Joseph Robins, Fools and Mad: A History of the Insane in Ireland (Dublin: Institute of Public Administration, 1986).

Nancy Scheper-Hughes, Saints, Scholars and Schizophrenics: Mental Illness in Rural Ireland (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1979).

Liam Greenslade, ‘The Blackbird Calls in Grief: Colonialism, Health and Identity among Irish Immigrants in Britain’, in Jim MacLaughlin (ed.), Location and Dislocation in Contemporary Irish Society: Emigration and Irish Identities (Cork: Cork University Press, 1997), 36-60.

Liam Greenslade, Moss Madden and Maggie Pearson, ‘From Visible to Invisible: The “Problem” of the Health of Irish People in Britain’, in Lara Marks and Michael Worboys (eds), Migrants, Minorities and Health: Historical and Contemporary Studies (London and New York: Routledge, 1997), 147-78.

P.J. Bracken et al., ‘Mental Health and Ethnicity: An Irish Dimension’, British Journal of Psychiatry, 172 (1998), 103-5.

Patrick Bracken and Patrick O’Sullivan, ‘The Invisibility of Irish Migrants in British Health Research’, Irish Studies Review, 9:1 (April 2001), 41-51 (copies to be distributed).

Liam Clarke, ‘Mental Illness and Irish People: Stereotypes, Determinants and Changing Perspectives’, Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, 5 (1998), 555-62.

Louise Ryan et al., ‘Depression in Irish Migrants Living in London: Case-Control Study’, British Journal of Psychiatry, 188 (2006), 560-6.

S.P. Singh and T. Burns, ‘Race and Mental Illness: There is More to Race than Racism’, British Medical Journal, 333 (2006), 648-51.

S.P. Singh et al., ‘Ethnicity and the Mental Health Act 1983’, British Journal of Psychiatry, 191 (2007), 99-105.