lorelle barry and catharine coleburn on insanity and ethnicity at the auckland mental hospital


Lorelle Barry and Catharine Coleburn, ‘Insanity and ethnicity in New Zealand: Māori encounters with the Auckland Mental Hospital, 1860—1900’, History of Psychiatry 22, 3 (2011)

This article examines Māori patients at the Auckland Mental Hospital between 1860 and 1900. We argue that the patient case notes reveal ‘European’ categories in which Māori were situated, and demonstrate the extent to which the authorities at the hospital grappled with their appearance, their language and their culture, all of which were elements of their ethnicity. We argue that the use of institutional case records is highly suggestive of some of the historical meanings of insanity for Māori, including the lack of detailed or sustained collection of information about patients’ tribal affiliations, the interest shown in their rights to land in maintenance payment inquiries, the experiences of cultural alienation or mate Māori, and the sad outcomes for Māori.

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