Minds in Crisis: Medico-moral Theories of Disorder in the Late Colonial World

  • Dane KennedyEmail author
Part of the Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies Series book series (CIPCSS)


This chapter examines two now-discredited medical theories that offered similar diagnoses of mental and moral disorder in the late colonial world. One theory concerned the colonizers and the other the colonized. Tropical neurasthenia, a popular diagnosis in the early twentieth century, attributed mental breakdowns by Western residents of the colonial tropics to their difficulties coping with primitive environments. Ethnopsychiatry, which gained currency in the era of decolonization, attributed outbreaks of violence among colonized peoples to the destabilizing effects of colonial modernity on their psyches. Race was a defining feature of both theories. Taken together, they can be read as casting doubts about the colonial project itself, suggesting that it was designed to drive people crazy.


Moral Panic Colonial Rule Colonial Regime Settler Community Nervous Breakdown 
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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of HistoryGeorge Washington UniversityWashington, District of ColumbiaUSA

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