You're Invited to the Black Humanities Collective (BHC)!

Added on by SCOR UMich.

You are invited to join the Black Humanities Collective as we workshop a paper by Anthropology and History doctoral student Nana Quarshie. Please read the paper before the workshop and come prepared to discuss it and offer comments to the author over dinner. RSVP to Malcolm Tariq ( to receive a copy of the paper.

‘But he is not a madman to do any harm:’

Petitioning for the Release of Suspected Lunatics in the Gold Coast, 1936 – 1946

Nana Quarshie

Wednesday, 28 October @ 5pm

Haven Hall 4701

Petitions sent to colonial authorities by African residents of the Gold Coast (colonial Ghana), for the release of ‘lunatics,’ account for much of the relatively little archival literature available on psychiatric confinement in Ghana. This article examines four such petitions, written by residents of Kumasi, between 1936 and 1946.  I posit that petitioners, and the authorities that they sought redress from, were engaged in evidentiary contests, which centered on a politics of harm, over the right to make claims about a suspected or confined lunatic’s mind.  Petitioners’ requests for the release of lunatics, who were kin, questioned the validity of the British colonial asylum confinement process by emphasizing the harmlessness of the subjects of their letters.  In turn, colonial officials’ responses to petitions for release highlighted the possible harmfulness, to society or to the confined, of releasing patients and of using treatment methods that existed outside of the asylum.  If we read these claims to harmlessness within petitions for release in relation to the prevalent ‘primitive mentality’ discourses used by European anthropologists, psychologists, and colonial administrators when characterizing the African mind it becomes clear that the petition signers’ claimed the harmlessness of kith and kin in order to inject into the colonial decision making considerations of the ethnic and class status of suspected and confined lunatics. 

Nana Quarshie is a third year in the Interdepartmental Program in Anthropology & History. He has a BA from the University of Toronto, an MSc from the London School of Economics, and an MA from Columbia University/ENS/EHESS. He works on the influence of migrants on emerging psychotherapeutic practices in Ghana, 1887-Present.

The Black Humanities Collective (BHC) is an interdisciplinary graduate student organization at the University of Michigan that fosters a community of scholars invested in the intellectual, professional, and social growth and development of students across disciplines whose research interests focus on the African Diaspora. In working toward our mission to affirm and improve the University's commitment to the intellectual and professional development of persons at the University of Michigan studying Africa and its Diaspora, we host a variety of events throughout the year that cater both to graduate and undergraduate students.

Graduates, undergraduates, and faculty in and outside of the humanities are welcomed to attend!

All Best,

Faithe Day (co-chair)

Malcolm Tariq (co-chair)

Charnan Williams (co-chair)