Saturday, April 4, 2020

ARC Review: Administrations of Lunacy: A Story of Racism and Psychiatry at the Milledgeville Asylum by Mab Segrest #DNF

Title: Administrations of Lunacy: A Story of Racism and Psychiatry at the Milledgeville Asylum
Author: Mab Segrest
Publication: April 5th 2020 by The New Press

Genre: Nonfiction
Purchase it on: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Rating: DNF

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.

A landmark of scholarship, Administrations of Lunacy restores a vital thread between past and present, revealing the tangled racial roots of psychiatry in America.

I'm very sad about it but I had to DNF this book. I did read until I finished the first half of this book but even so it was just a little too hard for me to continue. I will try to write a decent review of it, though, since that's only fair because I received a review copy. But of course no rating because I didn't finish it. This book wasn't just for me, unfortunately.

Administrations of Lunacy: A Story of Racism and Psychiatry at the Milledgeville Asylum by Mab Segrest sounded like a fascinating book when I was emailed about it but it was a little too heavy for me. Don't get me wrong, as far as I got in it, it definitely was an interesting read. I just found myself struggling to continue and I just knew it was best to call it quits.

I want to say that me deciding to DNF it absolutely didn't mean that it was a badly written book or anything. I just think people who are more known with the general topic, especially those who live in the United States will appreciate it more. I just think this was a case of it's not you, it's me. 

About the author:
Mabelle ("Mab) Massey Segrest is an American feminist, lesbian, writer, and activist.

Born in Alabama, Segrest received her Ph.D. in Modern British Literature from Duke University in 1979 and was appointed the Fuller-Matthai Professor of Gender & Women's Studies at Connecticut College in 2004.

Segrest is often recognized for her efforts combatting sexism, racism, homophobia, classism, and other forms of oppression. She is credited by some as being one of the main forces that drove the Ku Klux Klan from North Carolina in the late 1980s.
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  1. At first I thought this might be about a haunted asylum, which would have been very interesting, but I guess that's not really what it's about? I think I read the cover wrong😬

  2. Thanks for the honest review, Stephanie! It does sound like a heavy read.

  3. This does sound like a very interesting topic. I am sorry that it was such a disappointing read for you.


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