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The Protest Psychosis: How Schizophrenia Became a Black Disease

3.93  ·  Rating Details  ·  121 Ratings  ·  8 Reviews
A powerful account of how cultural anxieties about race shaped American notions of mental illness

The civil rights era is largely remembered as a time of sit-ins, boycotts, and riots. But a very different civil rights history evolved at the Ionia State Hospital for the Criminally Insane in Ionia, Michigan. In The Protest Psychosis, psychiatrist and cultural critic Jonathan
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published January 1st 2010 by Beacon Press
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Aug 29, 2010 Lee rated it liked it
This is the book I've been looking for. It didn't full fill all my fantasies that I had for it, but it was worth reading.

I don't think Metzl is the best writer. I waffled between feeling like his scope was too broad and feeling like his sources were too limited. At times I felt like each chapter read somewhat like a high school English paper, using an only marginally related quote or literary reference garnered from a google search to open the paper.

On the other hand, Metzl situated diagnosis
Oct 08, 2014 Jeremy rated it really liked it
The schizophrenia rate for African Americans is still 3 times that of Caucasians. If schizophrenia is as heritable of a disease as it has been presented, this statistic should not happen. The author did a great job of showing the importance of structural prejudice in understanding mental illness. He argues that it was not and is not the racist intentions of individual psychiatrists but rather the much larger cultural structural situation that the psychiatrists cannot see outside of.

In my work I
Feb 21, 2016 C rated it really liked it
I liked this a lot, but think it might appeal only to those with a strong interest in institutionalized racism and/or the civil rights movement. It seems more like the kind of book you'd read in a college-level sociology course, rather than one you'd find in the pop-soc section of the library (if that exists).

Coming at this from a physical science and not a social science background, I really appreciated the explanation of how Metzl approached the social science part of the book (e.g., choosing
Morgan Dhu
Dec 31, 2015 Morgan Dhu rated it really liked it
Jonathan Metzl's The Protest Psychosis: How Schizophrenia Became a Black Disease is an examination of how institutionalised racism and social constructs of "abnormal behaviour" have influenced the changing psychiatric definitions of certain mental illnesses - specifically schizophrenia and the now out of fashion dementia praecox - and resulted in a situation in which "... African-American patients were 'significantly more likely' than white patients to receive schizophrenia diagnoses, and 'signi ...more
Jun 02, 2012 Alo rated it it was ok
I feel like this could function as a decent "Institutionalized Racism in Psychiatric Diagnosis 101." But if you have read a good deal of diagnostic criticism, or even important pieces in the anti-psychiatry canon, what he says isn't going to blow your mind. In fact, a lot of the book is unnecessarily stylized and narrative. That is, of course, interesting but a large portion of the book is a presentation of "here is what I found in their archives, what do you see?" He only really goes into depth ...more
Metzl brilliantly traces the racialized process by which the prison ultimately replaced the mental hospital. He digs through these rich archives at the Ionia State Hospital in Michigan and excavates how it is exactly that schizophrenia was transformed from an illness of docile white women to a disorder of black male belligerence. It is really fascinating. - Bernard Harcourt
Feb 16, 2014 Olivia rated it liked it
Super highly recommend for anyone interested in the history of race and mental illness in the US. The writing probably doesn't support recommending it to a wider audience unfortunately. Feels like it falls just short of being an enthralling must-read for everyone,.
Dec 04, 2013 Katrine rated it really liked it
Great book, a very nuanced reading of the history and significance of schizophrenia in American history, with emphasis on the intersection between race, gender and science.
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“As but one example, the title of this book comes from a 1968 article that appeared in the prestigious Archives of General Psychiatry, in which psychiatrists Walter Bromberg and Frank Simon described schizophrenia as a “protest psychosis” whereby black men developed “hostile and aggressive feelings” and “delusional anti-whiteness” after listening to the words of Malcolm X, joining the Black Muslims, or aligning with groups that preached militant resistance to white society. According to the authors, the men required psychiatric treatment because their symptoms threatened not only their own sanity, but the social order of white America. Bromberg and Simon argued that black men who “espoused African or Islamic” ideologies, adopted “Islamic names” that were changed in such a way so as to deny “the previous Anglicization of their names” in fact demonstrated a “delusional anti-whiteness” that manifest as “paranoid projections of the Negroes to the Caucasian group.”10” 1 likes
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