Department of Humanities and Social Sciences

Indian Institute of Technology Ropar

HSS Seminar

‘Colonial Archives on Psychiatry: Some Observations on Lunatic Asylum Data’


Dr. Santhosh Abraham

March 12, 2019, Tuesday, at 3:00 PM

Venue:  Conference Room 2


British colonialism in India has produced several official reports and statistical data on the colonized. While there are governmental enumerative rationalities and colonial knowledge dimensions to the whole project of archival documentation in British India, critical reflections highlighted the beginning of new political languages, modalities, categorization, subjectivities and othering in the colony (Foucault:1969; Cohn: 1996). This presentation engages with colonial medical archives in India particularly the Lunatic Asylum reports in British South India to understand the construction of new identities. This research focuses on the cases of ‘Lunatic’ and the ‘Criminal Lunatic’ in the asylum reports to point out how the colonial state in India used similar Victorian perceptions to identify and categorize Indian ‘criminal lunatics’. 


About the speaker:

Dr. Santhosh Abraham is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Madras.  His research interests include History of Science and Medicine, Psychiatry and Mental Asylums, Sociology of Law, Legal History, Muslims and Islamic Law, Education, Social Mobility, and Informal Legal Systems.   Dr. Abraham is also serving as the Editorial Board Member of South Asia Research: An International multidisciplinary journal. He was the recipient of the Medical Humanities Research Award by Wellcome Trust, London in 2014 and 2015. In the recent years, his research focuses on the creation of identities under the British rule in India.