How and why? Practising psychiatry in colonial Africa

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I argued in the last podcast that medical theories in colonial Africa had a strong racial element to them, which buttressed colonialism. In this final podcast of my mini-series I’m going to explore how these ideas related to the actual practice of psychiatry in colonial Africa. I broaden my perspective to include not only Malawi, but also Natal and Uganda. I try to nuance some of cruder understandings of colonial psychiatry by suggesting that clinicians could adopt perspectives and treatments that focused on suffering human beings, rather than racial stereotypes. Psychiatry on the ground was different: it always is when interacting with real-life patients. I conclude by looking at the way forward for psychiatry in sub-Saharan Africa.

Image: Nurse and patient, Malawi. Copyright Daniel Maissan

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