Useful both to the patients as well as to the State’
Patient work in colonial mental hospitals in South Asia, c. 1818–1948
in Work, psychiatry and society, c. 1750–2015
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This chapter focuses on the organisation of patient work in the mental institutions established by the British for both Europeans and Indians in South Asia. It explores the changing and plural meanings of work in relation to prevalent medical ideas and practices in different institutional settings in British-held territories from the early nineteenth to the middle of the twentieth centuries. Different aspects of work will be discussed, such as work as therapy; means to combat idleness; patients’ empowerment; institutional profit; and forced labour. The incentives used by staff to induce patients to engage in physical labour and the punishments employed in cases of non-compliance will be scrutinised. It will be shown that gender, social and caste prejudices and sentiments affected the types of activity patients were expected to engage in, and how, with the emergence of professionalised occupational therapy from the early twentieth-century, patient work became increasingly acceptable also with regard to European patients. The link between intensive work regimes and the concomitant decreased use of other treatment methods such as sedation, prolonged rest and hydrotherapy from the 1920s onwards will be explored.

Editor: Waltraud Ernst

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