• Outrageous reason: Madness and race in Britain and Empire, 1780–2020

Outrageous reason: Madness and race in Britain and Empire, 1780–2020

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ISBN 9781915220394
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With a foreword by Dwight Turner.

This powerful and disturbing book draws direct comparisons between the plight and fates of African slaves, dehumanised and discarded to sanitise Britain’s trade in human lives and imperial ambitions, and the systemic ‘othering’ of people designated ‘mad’ throughout Western history. Drawing on contemporary historical records, Barham recounts, often in their own words, the stories of black people incarcerated in Kingston, Jamaica’s lunatic asylum, poor white women similarly ejected into the British psychiatric system in the early 20th century for failing to live up to class and gender norms, and most shockingly, black men who have died at the hands of the police and mental health nurses in state custody and psychiatric detention. Endemic racism, greed, cruelty, exploitation and social control are writ large across this account that demands to be read by all those concerned for human rights, mad rights, Black lives and truth-telling about Britain’s shameful colonial past and racist present.

Dwight Turner

1.         Credibility, madness and race

Part 1 – Jamaica, slavery and madness
Part 1 – Prologue
2.         From Zorg to Zong: The Zong affair
3.         A testimony from the female lunatic asylum: Henrietta Dawson and her distress
4.         In the bowels of colonial modernity
5.         The ‘beneficent despotism’ of racial liberalism
6.         Revivalists, Rastafari and psychiatry

Part 2 – Poor whites
Part 2 – Prologue
7.         The mad poor as poor whites
8.         Alice Rebecca Triggs: War, madness and migration

Part 3 – Pathologies of empire
Part 3 – Prologue
9.         The strange career of R.R. Racey: Mad at his post or the madness of colonialism?
10.       The Mir of Khairpur: Imperial doubts about his ‘fitness’ to rule

Part 4 – Holds that kill
Part 4 – Prologue
11.       Winston Rose: Humanity violated
12.       Orville Blackwood: Humanity disavowed

Part 5 – After
Part 5 – Prologue
13.       Disturbing continuities 
14.       Burn the ship! Escape the hold!

This book is hugely ambitious, hugely provocative and brilliant. For Peter Barham, madness is no side issue; he is talking about White supremacy, patriarchy and capitalism. He tracks ‘the long fuse of traumatised memory’ from the Caribbean to south Asia, and from western Europe to central Africa. And here’s the rub – these ideologies that drive people mad are themselves mad. We are all in the ‘hold’ of these forces – across the constructed imaginaries of race, class, gender, sexuality and disability. Moving ‘mad psychology’ to the centre of the historical analysis of imperialisms, Barham adds his voice to the chorus of calls for a completely new therapeutic environment. Black people will want to read this book because it is grounded in the Black experience, and White people will want to read it too. All mad lives matter.  Colin Prescod, former Chair, Institute of Race Relations

This is a welcome contribution to the discourse on ‘race’ and madness. Barham unpacks how power, ‘race’ and class – often overlooked in this discourse – intersect to maintain systems of racism that pervaded over the centuries. This book reminds us that systems of oppression affect us all and we should actively engage in dismantling them.   Frank Keating, Professor of Social Work and Mental Health, Royal Holloway University of London

A challenging, but ultimately rewarding, deep dive into the long history of racism in mental health services. Outrageous Reason takes us on a unique journey, exploring the way that black lives and mad lives are deeply entangled in the collective imagination of British society. Barham’s analysis is brought to life through the stories of some key Black figures whose fates have helped shape the current landscape. Disturbing and enlightening.  Hel Spandler, Professor of Mental Health, University of Central Lancashire and Managing Editor of Asylum: the radical mental health magazine

At a time when the country is grappling with imperial nostalgia, fascism ideation and the impact of their consequent anti-blackness on the bodies and minds of people racialised as black, Outrageous Reason is a crucial undertaking. Not only to better understand their deadly intersections but also to imagine alternative forms of care.  Guilaine Kinouani, radical psychologist and author of White Minds.

This is a powerful and impassioned analysis of the history of mental health and race, but not as a clinical problem, as has been customary in psychiatric discourse. Instead, the author situates race and mental health within the historical trajectory of the politics of reason and unreason. Peter Barham's book charts how psychiatric concepts and practice served to inferiorise and dehumanise racialised people and served to justify their oppression from the times of transatlantic slavery right up to our present-day context of institutional racism.  Dr Errol Francis, Artistic Director and CEO of Culture&

How could I not be truly impressed by this thought-provoking exploration of the intricate relationship between madness, race and the history of Western reason? For a psychotherapist who relishes in case study and conversations about race and identity politics, Outrageous Reason is a compelling and indispensable resource. Barham’s in-depth analysis of how race and mental health have been historically intertwined resonates with my professional experience. His detailed unravelling of the complex interplay between racial liberalism and the practice of psychiatry is both enlightening and critical for understanding the challenges faced by marginalised communities today. Outrageous Reason sheds light on a topic that is often overlooked by white writers. If, like me, you consider yourself  an advocate for social justice, I recommend this book as a must-read to increase your understanding of the complex dynamics of race, reason and mental health and also as a timely tool towards creating a more equitable and inclusive society.  Rotimi Akinsete, psychotherapist, clinical supervisor and EDI consultant

Peter Barham

Peter Barham has been working, writing and engaging critically in the mental health field for more than 50 years. His work straddles clinical research, psychoanalysis, practical initiative, historical inquiry, mental health activism and film making. He has a PhD in abnormal psychology from the University of Durham and in modern history from the University of Cambridge. He is a chartered psychologist and was elected a fellow of the British Psychological Society for his ‘outstanding contribution to psychological approaches to the understanding of psychosis’. He is the founder of the Hamlet Trust, which pioneered grassroots mental health reform in Central and Eastern Europe, supported by George Soros’ Open Society Institute. His books include Schizophrenia and Human Value (1995), first published 1984, Forgotten Lunatics of the Great War (2004, 2007) and Closing the Asylum: The mental patient in modern society, first published in 1992 and reissued in 2020.

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Peter Barham