Friday, May 15, 2020

Review: Administrations of Lunacy by Mab Segrest

Administrations of Lunacy by Mag Segrest

Publisher: The New Press
Pages: 384
Format: eARC 
Buy the Book: Amazon 

Goodreads:  A scathing and original look at the racist origins of psychiatry, through the story of the largest mental institution in the world.

Today, 90 percent of psychiatric beds are located in jails and prisons across the United States, institutions that confine disproportionate numbers of African Americans. After more than a decade of research, the celebrated scholar and activist Mab Segrest locates the deep historical roots of this startling fact, turning her sights on a long-forgotten cauldron of racial ideology: the state mental asylum system in which psychiatry was born and whose influences extend into our troubled present.

In December 1841, the Georgia State Lunatic, Idiot, and Epileptic Asylum was founded. A hundred years later, it had become the largest insane asylum in the world with over ten thousand patients. Administrations of Lunacy tells the story of this iconic and infamous southern institution, a history that was all but erased from popular memory and within the psychiatric profession.

Through riveting accounts of historical characters, Segrest reveals how modern psychiatric practice was forged in the traumas of slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and Jim Crow. Deftly connecting this history to the modern era, Segrest then shows how a single asylum helped set the stage for the eugenics theories of the twentieth century and the persistent racial ideologies of our own times. She also traces the connections to today’s dissident psychiatric practices that offer sanity and create justice.

Kritters Thoughts:  An in-depth look at not only a mental institution, but the people and the time and place that it existed.  This mental institution was large and located in an interesting place especially at an interesting time in our nation's history - the south pre and post Civil War.  With its location it had a trying relationship with race relations and how that fits into mental health. I have read other books, mostly historical fiction about mental institutions and the study of mental health and this was a different look at how it fits in the surrounding time.     

I initially started reading this book via audiobook and had to stop and return it after three chapters as it wasn't keeping my attention and wasn't working for me, so I switched to ebook form and finished it reading that way.  

The parts that I loved about this book were when it focused on a doctor or a patient inside the halls.  The moments where the author took the reader outside of the asylum didn't interest me as much.  I understand that she was trying to give context to what was going on at the same time, but for me those parts took up too much space and took away from the central reason for the book.  

I didn't deduct any "points" from trying to read the audiobook and it not working out.  I blame the narrator and I would never have that impact my review in the negative.

Rating: enjoyable, but didn't leave me wanting more
  Ebook 2020 Challenge: 43 out of 100

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received one copy of this book free of charge from Westman PR.  I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own.

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