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Immigrants and institutional confinement in Australia and New Zealand, 1873–1910

This book examines the formation of colonial social identities inside the institutions for the insane in Australia and New Zealand. Taking a large sample of patient records, the book pays particular attention to gender, ethnicity and class as categories of analysis. The book reminds us of the varied journeys of immigrants to the colonies: and of how and where they stopped, for different reasons, inside the social institutions of the period. It is about their stories of mobility, how these were told and produced inside institutions for the insane, and how, in the telling, colonial identities were asserted and formed. Having engaged with the structural imperatives of ‘Empire’ and with the varied imperial meanings of gender, sexuality and medicine, historians have considered the movements of travellers, migrants, military bodies and medical personnel, and ‘transnational lives’. This book examines an empire-wide discourse of ‘madness’ as part of this inquiry. (148)

Vagrancy laws and unauthorised mobility across colonial borders in New Zealand from 1877 to 1900
Catharine Coleborne

Historically, vagrancy is defined by the problem of those unwelcome transients who ‘stopped’ in places. Coerced to ‘move on’, these mobile people were among those whose mobility was not celebrated. The central objective of this chapter is to examine the regulation of mobility through its different registers in the legal records of nineteenth-century New Zealand vagrants. Specifically, the chapter provides an account of mobility witnessed through prosecutions for vagrancy. It argues that the ‘politics of mobility’ was produced through power relations: in this case, those relations of power inherent to the laws of a settler colonial mobility within a wider framework of Britain’s Pacific empire. There was one very specific difference which set the colonial legislation apart from its imperial model from the 1830s: the Vagrant Act contained a provision to prosecute vagrant Pakeha/Europeans who were viewed to be consorting with Māori or ‘aboriginal natives’. This chapter proposes that the vagrancy law was a ‘central mechanism’ of the colonial project, and integral to the creation of knowledge about people and populations, allocating control and constructing social difference.

in Empire and mobility in the long nineteenth century
The work of law and medicine in the creation of the colonial asylum
Catharine Coleborne

The colonial asylum in Australia and New Zealand was based largely on an English imperial model and became one site for the shaping of colonial identities in medicine. This chapter examines the historical relationship between medicine and law that brought particular individuals into colonial institutional confinement in the settler colony of Victoria. It explores the impact and articulation of 'colonialism' on discourses around 'lunacy' and on asylum patient populations. The chapter considers representations of Chinese patients in asylum case-books and asylum inspectors' reports within the context of anxieties about migration, miscegenation and racial difference, and madness in order to comment on the way the colonial asylum fashioned its population. Exploration and analysis of the colonial asylum's patient population is crucial to an understanding of the development and acceptance of psychiatry in the colonies.

in Law, history, colonialism
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Narrating patient identities in the colonial hospitals for the insane, 1873-1910
Catharine Coleborne

This chapter analyses the many social identity categories produced through official records of the insane in the colonies, using the database of almost 4,000 patients sampled from the two institutional colonial sites for every third year between 1873 and 1910. The social characteristics of this sample population are outlined here to provide a foundation for later chapters, and to throw light on the book’s theme of social identity. The data presented in this chapter simplifies the vast amount of detail gathered, showing how asking different questions can complicate its interpretation and thus our analysis. This chapter examines the mobile peoples of the colonial worlds they passed through by surveying the different ways these people were reflected upon, counted, described, understood and made into categories inside institutions, how their very identities were the result of a winnowing process of detailed case-making inside institutions in the period, and were then framed inside narratives of insanity.

in Insanity, identity and empire
Men in the public asylums, 1860s-1900s
Catharine Coleborne

This chapter argues that ethnicity found expression through gender in the patient case records, and it uses the tool of gender to explore the function and representation of ethnicity, at the same time finding out more about constructions and expectations of masculinity for nineteenth-century male inmates and their doctors. It is through the exploration of these two categories in relation to each other that we might begin to understand the central preoccupations of contemporaries in their context. It uses case materials in both qualitative and quantitative modes and examines diagnoses against the backdrop of discursive formations of colonialism and masculinity. For instance, I want to show how the dominant medical diagnoses, evinced through the data, tell us something about constructions of colonial masculinity and gender relations.

in Insanity, identity and empire
Melbourne and Auckland, 1850s-1890s
Catharine Coleborne

This chapter describes the worlds of migrants and their experiences of insanity, poverty, social institutions and the amelioration of their many difficulties in ‘settling’. This provide the focus for an argument about the imperial networks of welfare institutions and medical care in the 1850s to the 1890s. Mobility is again featured as a way of explaining the movement of peoples between social institutions, concerns about newcomers or ‘strangers’, as well as contemporary representations of immigrants in cities and the way that they symbolised the inherent tensions of white European settlement. Specifically the chapter. explores the histories of the Victorian Immigrants’ Homes from the 1850s, and touches on the histories of other welfare institutions such as homes for the aged poor in New Zealand, showing how in the absence of a Poor Law in the colonies, certain institutions for indoor and outdoor relief functioned for migrants. It explores welfare policy to some extent and examines in particular the medical relief offered to recipients of care and charity in the colonies. It also sets the scene for later chapters and their focus on gender.

in Insanity, identity and empire
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Insanity, identity and empire
Catharine Coleborne

The Introduction sets out the relevant arguments of the book, situates these within relevant historiography, and describes each chapter of the book. It argues that the stories of the insane found in the voluminous case records of the institutions for the insane in the colonies, although fragmentary, provide historians with evidence of the formation of a set of ‘social identities’ for the colonial insane drawn from the wider colonial worlds of which these institutions were part. It shows that the book engages with two important scholarly projects, and the connections between them: the examination of gendered and ‘raced’ bodies in the imperial world of the nineteenth century on the one hand, and on the other, a consideration of the imperial discourses of insanity and the formation of colonial institutional knowledge and practice.

in Insanity, identity and empire
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Vagrancy and imperial legality in the trans-Tasman colonial world, 1860s–1914
Catharine Coleborne

This chapter examines the mobility of laws in the trans-Tasman colonial world, suggesting that the way colonial subjects both adopted, remade, remodelled and enacted laws reflected the mobility of both people and ideas, and also anxieties about mobility itself. It revisits some Australian and New Zealand legal history scholarship which has been central to understanding the transmission and uptake of imperial ‘laws’ in new colonial sites, raising questions about the cultural malleability of legality in colonial settings and reflecting on the question of mobility as a social problem which had to be addressed by colonial legislators. The chapter considers the laws that were formulated to regulate the movement of colonial populations, including vagrants and transients, Indigenous peoples, and new immigrants.

in New Zealand’s empire
Melbourne and Auckland, 1850s-1880s
Catharine Coleborne

This chapter situates Melbourne and Auckland as colonial cities inside the imperial world of medicine and institutional confinement, also outlining the significance of population movement and the mobility of ideas and practices. Within the ‘age of mobility’, insanity travelled: in the minds and bodies of emigrants from Britain and other parts of the world, in the circulating meanings of colonial health and models of welfare and social institutions, and, in the knowledge about insanity and treatment for it. It focuses on urban sites, comparisons and connections between these in historical writing, and concepts of migration and insanity.

in Insanity, identity and empire
Women in the public asylums, 1860s-1900s
Catharine Coleborne

This chapter argues that ethnicity found expression through gender in the patient case records, and it uses the tool of gender to explore the function and representation of ethnicity, at the same time finding out more about constructions and expectations of femininity for nineteenth-century female inmates and their doctors, through both quantitative and qualitative evidence. Read together, chapters four and five show gender in relationship and tease out some of the dominant strands of historiographical inquiry about gender and asylum confinement over the past few decades. In particular, it shows that some recurring themes/aspects of the case record material require further explication in the colonial context, such as the emphasis on reproductive health and the presence of imbecile women.

in Insanity, identity and empire