Italian colonial psychiatry: outlines of a discipline, and practical achievements in Libya and the Horn of Africa



Scarfone M.


Hist Psychiatry. 2016 Dec;27(4):389-405. doi: 10.1177/0957154X16659853. Epub 2016 Jul 22.


This article describes the establishment of psychiatry in Italy’s former colonies during the period 1906-43, in terms of the clinical and institutional mechanisms, the underlying theories and the main individuals involved. ‘Colonial psychiatry’ (variously called ‘ethnographic’, ‘comparative’ or ‘racial’ psychiatry) – the object of which was both to care for mentally afflicted colonists and local people and also to understand and make sense of their pathologies – received most attention in colonial Libya, starting in the first months of the Italian occupation (1911-12) and then taking institutional form in the 1930s; in the colonies of what was known as ‘Italian East Africa’, on the other hand, less was said about psychiatric care, and practical achievements were correspondingly limited. CI – © The Author(s) 2016.

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Link/DOI: 10.1177/0957154X16659853