The Protest Psychosis: How Schizophrenia Became a Black Disease

The Protest Psychosis: How Schizophrenia Became a Black Disease by Jonathan M. Metzl

RC 451.5 .N4 M48 2009

Revolution was in the air in the 1960s. Civil rights protests demanded attention on the airwaves and in the streets. Anger gave way to revolt, and revolt provided the elusive promise of actual change. But a very different civil rights history evolved at the Ionia State Hospital for the Criminally Insane in Ionia, Michigan. Here, far from the national glare of sit-ins, boycotts, and riots, African American men suddenly appeared in the asylum’s previously white, locked wards. Some of these men came to the attention of the state after participating in civil rights demonstrations, while others were sent by the military, the penal system, or the police. Though many of the men hailed from Detroit, ambulances and patrol wagons brought men from other urban centers as well. Once at Ionia, psychiatrists classified these men under a single diagnosis: schizophrenia.

Metzl shows how associations between schizophrenia and blackness emerged during the 1960s and 1970s in ways that directly reflected national political events. As he demonstrates, far from resulting from the racist intentions of individual doctors or the symptoms of specific patients, racialized schizophrenia grew from a much wider set of cultural shifts that defined the thoughts, actions, and even the politics of black men as being inherently insane.–publisher description.

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