Seminar: Sarah Pinto, ‘Indian Insanity and the Local-Colonial Contest for its Treatment’

This paper examines the indigenous-colonial discourse on the treatment for Indian insanity. The paper argues that the establishment of the asylums necessitated a colonial construction of the Indian understanding of mental illness and its treatment as entirely spiritual and consequently ‘superstitious’. Colonial agencies used this narrative to justify the establishment of the asylum and promote its use.  Along with asserting the superiority of western medicine, they undermined local agencies that traditionally provided treatment and care to those who suffered from mental illness. Furthermore, the paper contends that the asylum, which was a response to Victorian society’s capitalist – individualistic ideals, remained peripheral to the life-worlds of Indian communities that were essentially collectivistic in nature.

Dr Sarah A Pinto is a historian and Academic Coordinator at Victoria University of Wellington. She is the author of Lunatic Asylums in Colonial Bombay: Shackled Bodies, Unchained Minds (Cham: Palgrave Macmillan 2018). Her passion for healing and history motivates her research. Through her work, she aims to disrupt legacies of trauma and to enable new narratives in mental health care. For more on her research/blogs visit:

Venue:            Old Kirk 406 (F L W Wood Seminar Room)

Date:               Friday, 10 May 2019

Time:              12:10pm to 1:30pm

For more information: Contact Dr Alexander Maxwell (; 04 463 6753).