Élodie Edwards-Grossi
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Photographing race and madness
Annual reports of psychiatric hospitals in the US South in the early twentieth century
in The photobook world
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This chapter analyses the documentary photographs published between the 1900s and the 1930s in annual reports of psychiatric hospitals in Louisiana. These annual reports were prepared by physicians and the superintendents of these institutions and were presented to the board of administrators to prove their proper functioning and the efficiency of the treatments. Photographs from two public institutions are analysed: the Louisiana Hospital for Insane of the State of Louisiana in Pineville, which was created in 1902 (later changed to the Central Louisiana State Hospital in 1924) and the East Louisiana State Hospital in Jackson, Louisiana, which was created by the Louisiana Legislature in 1847. The photographs depict the daily lives and activities that Black and white patients engaged in, at the time when segregation of all public institutions was the norm in the US South. The chapter shows that the central concern of the hospitals’ administrative personnel was to produce images of patients in relation to theories on labour, docility and race. It argues that moral therapy reproduced the hierarchy and division between Blacks and Whites in the Jim Crow era. Furthermore, patients’ testimonies and resistance are compelling evidence to reconsider the official images of the hospitals as visual fictions.

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