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Grant number like: FEL-257073-18

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Judith Weisenfeld
Princeton University (Princeton, NJ 08540-5228)

Research Programs

[Grant products][Media coverage]

$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
7/1/2018 – 6/30/2019

Psychiatry, Race, and African American Religions in the Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries

Research and writing of a book-length study of interpretations of African American religiosity by psychiatrists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

This project examines the intersections of psychiatry and racialized understandings of religion in late nineteenth and early twentieth-century America and explores the impact on African Americans of the racialized religious framing of "the normal mind." I trace the contours of white psychiatrists' understandings of the role of religion in shaping African Americans' mental states, explore how racialized religious conceptions of the sane and insane influenced court decisions about competency and the treatment of African Americans in mental hospitals. I also consider the construction by police, media, and courts of mental illnesses attributed to the practice of "voodoo" or participation in religious groups outsiders labeled "cults." I argue that racialized ideas about religion were constitutive components of psychiatric constructions of the normal and insane in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.