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Diagnosing Insanity in the Modern Middle East: The case of ‘Asfuriyyeh

Thursday Lecture Series

dateSeptember 20, 2018 timeThursday, 12:15pm EDT location The Heyman Center, Second Floor Common Room, Columbia University
  • Audience open exclusively to Columbia faculty, students, and invited guests
  • All others interested in attending, please email SOF/Heyman at [email protected].
B&W photo of female patients and medical staff

In this talk I use aggregate data of annual reports and other statistical material retrieved from various archival material related to ‘Asfuriyyeh (one of the main modern psychiatric hospitals in the Middle East at the turn of the twentieth century) as an indicator of mutations in the topography of mental illness in the region. The talk examines the patient population of ‘Asfuriyyeh comparatively to other contexts. I analyze trends in the shifting diagnosis and rationalization of mental illness in its relation vis-à-vis various socio-political and economic changes as well as the various therapeutic innovations deployed to treat them.

Photo caption: Female Patients in front of the Philadelphia House, 'Asfuriyyeh, 1904. Source: SOAS Archives& Special Collections.