chapter  4
21 Pages

Colonial policies, racial politics and the development of psychiatric institutions in early nineteenth-century British India

ByWaltraud Ernst

This chapter focuses on the impact of ‘race’ on the development of institutions for

the mentally ill in Calcutta, Madras (Chennai) and Bombay (Mumbai) during the

time of the East India Company.1 Diversity in institutional development in these

three presidencies was closely bound up not only with different approaches to

colonial administration, but also with different attitudes towards ‘race’ in these

localities. The institutions were subject to the specific histories, social conditions

and racial interactions in each of the three main presidencies. Medical institutions

such as lunatic asylums could not simply be transplanted to colonial India to be

imposed upon its different peoples. Rather, they had to respond and be adapted to

the particular local circumstances, and thus to various racial and social sensibilities.

There was no single prototype of a ‘colonial madhouse’, just as it would be