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ALIENS IN THE ASYLUM: IMMIGRATION AND MADNESS IN GOLD COAST*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 November 2013

Matthew M. Heaton*
Affiliation:
Virginia Tech
*
Author's email: mheaton@vt.edu

Abstract

This article examines the experiences of immigrants from British and French West African colonies in the Accra lunatic asylum in the first half of the twentieth century. Placing particular emphasis on how immigrants got into and out of the asylum, the article argues that immigrants were marginalized and manipulated by colonial psychiatric institutions to a greater extent than non-migrant colonial subjects in Gold Coast. In making this argument, the article argues for the value of adding colonial origin and subjecthood to the racial and gendered perspectives that have dominated the history of health and medicine in Africa to date.

Type
Colonial Medicine and Disease Management
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2013 

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Footnotes

*

The research was supported by a Patrice Lumumba Fellowship from the John L. Warfield Center for African and African American Studies and a research fellowship from the Department of History at the University of Texas at Austin.

References

1 The names of all individuals discussed in this article have been assigned initials by the author to protect their identities.

2 Ghana National Archives, Accra (GNA) Colonial Secretary's Office (CSO) 11/8/13/77, letter from T. S. W. Thomas, Governor, Gold Coast, to Administrator-in-Chief of the Colonies, Liquidator of the Upper Volta, Ouagadougou, 9 Sept. 1933.

3 On the link between immigration and mental illness in the discourse on immigration in the US, see Daniels, R., Guarding the Golden Door: American Immigration Policy and Immigrants since 1882 (New York, 2004)Google Scholar; Hing, B. O., Defining America through Immigration Policy (Philadelphia, 2004)Google Scholar; and King, D. S., Making Americans: Immigration, Race, and the Origins of the Diverse Democracy (Cambridge, MA, 2000)Google Scholar. On European notions that nineteenth-century Jewish immigrants were particularly prone to mental illness, see Gilman, S. L., ‘Jews and mental illness: medical metaphors, anti-Semitism, and the Jewish response’, Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 20:2 (1984), 150–93.0.CO;2-0>CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed.

4 Bégué, J.-M., ‘French psychiatry in Algeria (1830–1962): from colonial to transcultural’, History of Psychiatry, 7:28 (1996), 533–48CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed; Mahone, S. and Vaughan, M. (eds.), Psychiatry and Empire (New York, 2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Bell, L. V., Mental and Social Disorder in Sub-Saharan Africa: The Case of Sierra Leone, 1787–1990 (Westport, CT, 1991)Google Scholar; Deacon, H. J., ‘Madness, race and moral treatment: Robben Island Lunatic Asylum, Cape Colony, 1846–1890’, History of Psychiatry, 7:26 (1996), 287–97CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed; Jackson, L., Surfacing Up: Psychiatry and Social Order in Colonial Zimbabwe, 1908–1968 (Ithaca, NY, 2005)Google Scholar; Keller, R. C., Colonial Madness: Psychiatry in French North Africa (Chicago, IL, 2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; McCulloch, J., Colonial Psychiatry and ‘The African Mind’ (Cambridge, 1995)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Parle, J., ‘The fools on the hill: the Natal Government Asylum and the institutionalisation of insanity in colonial Natal’, Journal of Natal and Zulu History, 19 (1999), 139CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed; Sadowsky, J., Imperial Bedlam: Institutions of Madness in Colonial Southwest Nigeria (Berkeley, CA, 1999)Google ScholarPubMed; Swartz, S., ‘Colonizing the insane: causes of insanity in the Cape, 1891–1920’, History of the Human Sciences, 8:4 (1995), 3957CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Vaughan, M., ‘Idioms of madness: Zomba Lunatic Asylum, Nyasaland, in the colonial period’, Journal of Southern African Studies, 9:2 (1983), 218–38CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed.

5 Vaughan, M., Curing Their Ills: Colonial Power and African Illness (Stanford, CA, 1991), 101Google Scholar.

6 Throughout this article, I will use the term ‘lunatic’ to refer to the individuals placed in the Accra asylum. I choose this term because it was the technical legal language used to define individuals confined in the asylum. It should therefore be see in this light, as a contextualized category intimately bound up with the colonial structures for determining mental illness in subject populations for better or worse, and not in any way as a comment upon the ‘real’ mental state of these individuals.

7 Vaughan, Curing Their Ills, 120.

8 Other works that make connections between medical interventionism and the reinforcement of the colonial social order include Arnold, D. (ed.), Imperial Medicine and Indigenous Societies (Manchester, 1988)Google Scholar; Curtin, P. D., ‘Medical knowledge and urban planning in tropical Africa’, American Historical Review, 90:3 (1985), 594613CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Echenberg, M. J., Black Death, White Medicine: Bubonic Plague and the Politics of Public Health in Colonial Senegal, 1914–1945 (Portsmouth, NH, 2002)Google Scholar; Lyons, M., The Colonial Disease: A Social History of Sleeping Sickness in Northern Zaire, 1900–1940 (Cambridge, 1992)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Packard, R. M., White Plague, Black Labour: Tuberculosis and the Political Economy of Health and Disease in South Africa (Berkeley, CA, 1989)Google Scholar; and Ranger, T. and Slack, P. (eds.), Epidemics and Ideas: Essays on the Historical Perception of Pestilence (Cambridge, 1992)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

9 Bell, Mental and Social Disorder, 102.

10 Nigerian National Archives, Ibadan (NNAI) Chief Secretary's Office (CSO) 26 52898/S.1/29, cited in Sadowsky, Imperial Bedlam, 58.

11 Jackson, Surfacing Up, 68–128.

12 Cooper, F. and Stoler, A. L. (eds.), Tensions of Empire: Colonial Cultures in a Bourgeois World (Berkeley, CA, 1997)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

13 Keller, Colonial Madness, 191–226; Fassin, D., ‘Ethnopsychiatry and the postcolonial encounter: a French psychopolitics of otherness’, in Anderson, W., Jenson, D., and Keller, R. C. (eds.), Unconscious Dominions: Psychoanalysis, Colonial Trauma, and Global Sovereignties (Durham, NC, 2011), 223–45CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

14 Heaton, M. M., Black Skin, White Coats: Nigerian Psychiatrists, Decolonization, and the Globalization of Psychiatry (Athens, OH, 2013), 79103Google Scholar.

15 Ewusi-Mensah, I., ‘Post-colonial psychiatric care in Ghana’, The Psychiatrist, 25:6 (2001), 228–9Google Scholar.

16 Patterson, K. D., Health in Colonial Ghana: Disease, Medicine, and Socioeconomic Change, 1900–1955 (Waltham, MA, 1981), 7Google Scholar.

17 Skinner, E. P., ‘Labour migration among the Mossi of the Upper Volta’, in Kuper, H. (ed.), Urbanization and Migration in West Africa (Berkeley, CA, 1965), 65Google Scholar.

18 Cordell, D. D., Gregory, J. W., and Piché, V., Hoe and Wage: A Social History of a Circular Migration System in West Africa (Boulder, CO, 1996), 91–3Google Scholar.

19 Thomas, R. G., ‘Forced labour in British West Africa: the case of the Northern Territories of the Gold Coast 1906–1927’, The Journal of African History, 14:1 (1973), 80CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

20 Rack, P., Race, Culture, and Mental Disorder (London, 1982), 160–1Google Scholar. Rack makes clear that a variety of factors are important when relating studies on the relationship between migration and mental illness: ‘each migrant group is different, not only in its culture of origin and the reception it receives, but in demography, age-structure, and motives for migrating’. Ibid.

Ibid

21 Littlewood, R. and Lipsedge, M., Aliens and Alienists: Ethnic Minorities and Psychiatry (New York, 1982)Google Scholar.

22 Tooth, G., Studies in Mental Illness in the Gold Coast (London, 1950), 64Google Scholar.

23 Such is the premise of Vaughan, Curing Their Ills, and McCulloch, Colonial Psychiatry.

24 Tooth, Studies in Mental Illness, devotes an entire section to the effects of ‘Westernization’ on Gold Coast psyches. J. C. Carothers also found direct connections between migration and increased rates of mental illness in several of his works based on asylum populations at Mathari Mental Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya. See Carothers, J. C., ‘A study of mental derangement in Africans, and an attempt to explain its peculiarities, more especially in relation to the African attitude to life’, Journal of Mental Science, 93 (1947), 560CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed.

25 Cordell, Gregory, and Piché, Hoe and Wage, 107.

26 Sadowsky, J., ‘Confinement and colonialism in Nigeria’, in Porter, R. and Wright, D. (eds.), The Confinement of the Insane: International Perspectives, 1800–1965 (Cambridge, 2003), 307–9Google Scholar.

27 GNA CSO 11/8/13/42, letter from Colonial Secretary, Accra, to Acting Chief Commissioner of the Northern Territories, Tamale, 24 June 1933.

28 Ibid. lists S. L. as awaiting repatriation in 1933. NNAI CSO 26/06285 vol. I., letter from Principle Medical Officer, Gold Coast, to Colonial Secretary, Victoriaborg, 24 Oct. 1916 shows that Gold Coast had requested S. L.'s repatriation to Nigeria 17 years earlier.

Ibid

29 Patterson, Health in Colonial Ghana, 82.

30 GNA CSO 11/8/12, report of Supreme Court of the Gold Coast Colony, ‘Inquisition on a Death’, 21 Jan. 1933.

31 Patterson, Health in Colonial Ghana, 82.

32 Ghana National Archives, Kumasi (GNAK) 1/14/1/10.

33 Laugharne, R. and Burns, T., ‘Mental health services in Kumasi, Ghana’, Psychiatric Bulletin, 23 (1999), 361–3CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

34 GNA CSO 11/8/16, Memo to the Acting Chief Secretary, 15 Nov. 1932.

35 NNAI CSO 06285, vol. II, letter from Acting Governor, Gold Coast, to Governor, Nigeria, 2 Aug. 1932.

36 GNA CSO 11/8/16/12, Internal Memo, 29 Dec. 1930.

37 That West African colonies had clear policies in place for the repatriation of white lunatics is clear from correspondence in National Archives of the United Kingdom, Kew, (TNA) Colonial Office (CO) 876/226.

38 NNAI CSO 06285, vol. II, letter from Acting Governor, Gold Coast, to Governor, Nigeria, 2 Aug. 1932.

39 NNAI CSO 06285, vol. II, Director of Medical and Sanitary Services, Nigeria, to Chief Secretary to the Government, 29 Sept. 1932.

40 Ibid.

Ibid

41 NNAI CSO 06285, vol. II, letter from G. Hemmant, Officer Administrating the Government, Nigeria, to Governor, Gold Coast, 8 Nov. 1932.

42 NNAI CSO 06285, vol. II, letter from Governor, Gold Coast, to Governor of Nigeria, 29 Dec. 1932.

43 GNA CSO 11/8/16/48, letter from Attorney General to Colonial Secretary, 24 Nov. 1932.

44 Ibid.

Ibid

45 GNA CSO 11/8/16/48, letter from Attorney General to Colonial Secretary, 24 Nov. 1932.

46 Ibid.

Ibid

47 Ibid.

Ibid

48 GNA CSO 11/8/16/50, letter from Acting DMSS to Colonial Secretary, 16 Dec. 1932.

49 GNA CSO 11/8/16/9, letter from Attorney General to Colonial Secretary, 15 Dec. 1930.

50 Ibid.

Ibid

51 GNA CSO 11/8/13, letter from Attorney General to Colonial Secretary, 11 Mar. 1933.

52 Ibid.

Ibid

53 Ibid.

Ibid

54 GNA CSO 11/8/13, Internal memo, 10 Apr. 1933.

55 GNA CSO 11/8/13, letter from Acting Director, Medical and Sanitary Service, Gold Coast, to Secretary for Native Affairs, Gold Coast, 25 Mar. 1933. This letter contains a list, divided by ethnic affiliation, of all forty-four inmates deemed ‘sufficiently recovered’.

56 The origins of these inmates are derived from a revised list of the 44 names contained in GNA CSO 11/8/13, letter from Acting Director, Medical and Sanitary Services, Gold Coast, to Secretary for Native Affairs, Gold Coast, 7 Apr. 1933, in which all the names listed as ‘Lagos Tribes’ are certainly Nigerian, while the French West Africans are all designated by a hand-written ‘F’ next to their names. These included five inmates designated as ‘Moshi’, one ‘Grunshie’, four ‘Wangara’, four ‘Bassaerimi’, and two ‘Fulani.’ The remaining ‘Crepi’, ‘Dargarti’, ‘Fanti’, ‘Ashanti’, and ‘Akwapim’ inmates were all natives of the Gold Coast. The list contains four Hausa names. We know that Gold Coast considered them to be from Nigeria, because two of them were ultimately proposed to Nigeria for repatriation. The Nigerian origin of the other two is proposed in GNA CSO 11/8/13, letter from Medical Officer in charge of the Accra Asylum to the Medical Department, 13 May 1933.

57 GNA CSO 11/8/13, Colonial Secretary, Accra to Acting Chief of the Northern Territories, Tamale, 24 June 1933 contains a chart indicating the name, place of origin, tribal affiliation, and sex of all lunatics, native and foreign, proposed for discharge and release.

58 GNA CSO 11/8/13, Colonial Secretary, Gold Coast, to Commissioner Northern Province, Commissioner Eastern Province, Commissioner Western Province and Acting Commissioner Central Province, 24 June 1933.

59 Ibid.

Ibid

60 Ibid.

Ibid

61 GNA CSO 11/8/13/56, Unknown to Acting Colonial Secretary, 11 Aug. 1933.

62 Ibid.

Ibid

63 Ibid.

Ibid

64 GNA CSO 11/8/13/89, Unknown to Acting Colonial Secretary, 19 Sept. 1933.

65 NNAI CSO 26/06285, vol. II, Unknown to Colonial Secretary, 3 July 1933.

66 NNAI CSO 26/06285, vol. II, C.N. A. Clarke to Colonial Secretary, 3 July 1933.

67 NNAI CSO 26/06285 vol. II, A. C. Burns, Acting Chief Secretary to the Government (Nigeria) to Colonial Secretary, Gold Coast, 17 Aug. 1933.

68 NNAI CSO 26/06285, vol. II, District Officer, Katsina, to Chief Secretary, Lagos, 15 Sept. 1933.

69 NNAI CSO 03028/s.931/2, Labour Department, Gold Coast, to The Labour Officer, Lagos, 15 Oct. 1945.

70 NNAI CSO 03028/s.931/7, Chief Secretary to the government Lagos, to Secretary, Northern Provinces, Kaduna, 24 Oct. 1945.

71 Ibid.

Ibid

72 Ibid.

Ibid

73 Ibid.

Ibid

74 NNAI CSO 03028/s.938/1, Labour Officer, Accra, to Labour Officer, Lagos, 6 May 1946.

75 A. F.'s deportation order is noted in GNA CSO 11/8/13, T. S. W. Thomas, Governor, Gold Coast to Administrator-in-Chief of the Colonies, Ouagadougo, 9 Sept. 1933; A. B.'s deportation order came in an identical letter the same day. The sole Nigerian case from 1933 is presented in NNAI CSO 06285, vol. II, A. C. Burns, Acting Chief Secretary to the Government, Nigeria, to Colonial Secretary, Gold Coast, 17 Aug. 1933; NNAI CSO 06285, vol. II, Acting Colonial Secretary, Gold Coast, to Chief Secretary to the Government of Nigeria, 5 Sept. 1933.

76 GNA CSO 11/8/13, Acting Director, Medical and Sanitary Service, Gold Coast, to Secretary for Native Affairs, Gold Coast, 7 Apr. 1933; GNA CSO 11/8/13, Colonial Secretary to Commissioner Northern Province, Commissioner Eastern Province, Commissioner Western Province and Acting Commissioner Central Province, 24 June 1933.

77 GNA CSO 11/8/13/130, B. B. to Colonial Secretary, 26 Jan. 1934.

78 Ibid.

Ibid

79 Marks, S., ‘What is colonial about colonial medicine? and what has happened to imperialism and health?’, Social History of Medicine, 10:2 (1997), 205–19CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed.

80 Ibid. 216.

Ibid
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