The protest psychosis How schizophrenia became a Black disease

Jonathan Metzl, 1964-

Book - 2009

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Subjects
Published
Boston, Mass. : Beacon Press c2009.
Language
English
Physical Description
xxi, 246 p. : ill. ; 24 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN
9780807085929
0807085928
Main Author
Jonathan Metzl, 1964- (-)
  • Preface: the protest psychosis
  • Ionia : Homicidal
  • Ionia
  • Alcie Wilson : She tells very little about her behavior yet shows a lot
  • Loosening associations
  • Like a family
  • Octavious Green : The other direction
  • Categories
  • Octavius Greene had no exit interview
  • The persistence of memory
  • Caesar Williams : Too close for comfort
  • His actions are determined largely by his emotions
  • Revisionist mystery
  • A racialized disease
  • A metaphor for race
  • Rasheed Karim : Turned loose
  • Deinstitutionalization
  • Raised in a slum ghetto
  • Power, knowledge, and diagnostic revision
  • Return of the repressed
  • Rashamon
  • Something else instead
  • Remnants : Locked away
  • Diversity
  • Inside
  • Remnants
  • Controllin' the planet
  • Conclusion.
Review by Booklist Reviews

In the 1960s, the psychiatric diagnosis of schizophrenia morphed from a malady suffered by sensitive white intellectuals to one of disaffected, angry black men. Psychiatric professor Metzl explores changes in the profession from the 1920s to today but focuses particularly on the 1960s, which saw violent protests against racial discrimination. Metzl details the social, political, and cultural influences behind debates within the profession about what constituted mental illness. Drawing on case studies from Michigan's now-defunct Asylum for Insane Criminals in Ionia, 130 miles from racially volatile Detroit, Metzl illustrates how schizophrenia became a racialized disease. He analyzes black cultural allusions to double consciousness, from W. E. B. DuBois to modern-day rappers who have adapted notions of schizophrenia in response to American racism or as a social diagnosis of white America itself. Metzl also examines shortcomings in American society and the psychiatric profession in particular, which resisted the notion that violent responses to racism might have been rational. An enlightening look at how those in power define aberrant behavior and evade self-analysis. Copyright 2010 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Choice Reviews

Drawing on the archival records of the Ionia Asylum for the Criminally Insane (in Ionia, Michigan) and bolstering his argument with convincing case studies, Metzl (psychiatry and women's studies, Univ. of Michigan) tells a fascinating, disturbing story of the shift in the diagnosis of schizophrenia as a disease of passive, nonthreatening white women (in the 1920s-40s) to a disease of hostile, aggressive black men (in the 1960s-70s). The book's title refers to suggestions by psychiatrists in the 1960s that black men who aligned themselves with civil rights protests, particularly militant protests, were mentally ill. Metzl attributes the diagnostic shift and the lingering--inaccurate--notion that schizophrenia is associated with violence to this historical period of racial unrest and the rhetoric associated with it. He avoids attributing the causes and treatment of schizophrenia to culture alone, but he makes a compelling case for racial undercurrents influencing not only psychiatry's view of this illness but also the views of the wider society. Ambiguity in use of the terms "schizophrenia" and "schizophrenic"--i.e., sometimes references are metaphorical, at other times to the illness itself--is unfortunate but does not undermine the power of this narrative. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All collections. Copyright 2010 American Library Association.

Review by PW Annex Reviews

Metzl, a psychiatrist and Univ. of Michigan professor, uses the largely unknown story of Michigan's Ionia Mental Hospital to track the evolving definition of schizophrenia from the 1920s to the '70s, from an illness of "pastoral, feminine neurosis into one of urban, male psychosis" correlated with aggression. Metzl puts the imperfect science of diagnosis in historical context with admirable lucidity, moving into the present to examine how a tangle of medical errors and systemic racism that labels "threats to authority as mental illness" influences the diagnosis of black men with schizophrenia. He offers a laudably complex look at a complex and still poorly understood condition, expanding his discussion to include the impact of deinstitutionalization and the revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-II) in the 1960s. The result is a sophisticated analysis of the mechanisms of racism in the mental health system and, by extension, the criminal justice system. (Jan.) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Metzl (psychiatry and women's studies, U. of Michigan-Ann Arbor) explains how the civil rights movement drove many African Americans crazy, or perhaps how some other phenomenon accounts for the sudden surge in diagnoses of schizophrenia in young black man during the 1960s. From a historical perspective, he contends, race impacts medical communication because racial tensions are structured into clinical interactions long before doctors or patients even enter into examination rooms. He show how anxieties about racial difference shape diagnostic criteria, health-care policies, medical and popular attitudes about mentally ill people, the structures of treatment facilities, and ultimately the conversations that take place therein. His study pivots on four case studies. Annotation ©2010 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Revolution was in the air in the 1960s. Civil rights protests demanded attention on the airwaves and in the streets. Anger gave way to revolt, and revolt provided the elusive promise of actual change. But a very different civil rights history evolved at the Ionia State Hospital for the Criminally Insane in Ionia, Michigan. Here, far from the national glare of sit-ins, boycotts, or riots, African American men suddenly appeared in the asylum’s previously white, locked wards. Some of these men came to the attention of the state after participating in civil rights demonstrations, while others were sent by the military, the penal system, or the police. Though many of the men hailed from Detroit, ambulances and paddy wagons brought men from other urban centers as well. Once at Ionia, psychiatrists classified these men under a single diagnosis: schizophrenia. In The Protest Psychosis, psychiatrist and cultural critic Jonathan Metzl tells the shocking story of how schizophrenia became the diagnostic term overwhelmingly applied to African American men at the Ionia State Hospital, and how events at Ionia mirrored national conversations that increasingly linked blackness, madness, and civil rights. Expertly sifting through a vast array of cultural documents—from scientific literature, to music lyrics, to riveting, tragic hospital charts—Metzl shows how associations between schizophrenia and blackness emerged during the 1960s and 1970s in ways that directly reflected national political events. As he demonstrates, far from resulting from the racist intentions of individual doctors or the symptoms of specific patients, racialized schizophrenia grew from a much wider set of cultural shifts that defined the thoughts, actions, and even the politics of black men as being inherently insane. Ultimately, The Protest Psychosis provides a cautionary tale of how anxieties about race continue to impact doctor-patient interactions, even during our current, seemingly post-race era of genetics, pharmacokinetics, and brain scans.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

A powerful account of how cultural anxieties about race shaped American notions of mental illness The civil rights era is largely remembered as a time of sit-ins, boycotts, and riots. But a very different civil rights history evolved at the Ionia State Hospital for the Criminally Insane in Ionia, Michigan. In The Protest Psychosis, psychiatrist and cultural critic Jonathan Metzl tells the shocking story of how schizophrenia became the diagnostic term overwhelmingly applied to African American protesters at Ionia—for political reasons as well as clinical ones. Expertly sifting through a vast array of cultural documents, Metzl shows how associations between schizophrenia and blackness emerged during the tumultuous decades of the 1960s and 1970s—and he provides a cautionary tale of how anxieties about race continue to impact doctor-patient interactions in our seemingly postracial America.From the Trade Paperback edition.