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Mental Death: Slavery, Madness and State Violence in the United States


In this dissertation, I analyzing the invagination of slavery and madness as constitutive of the political, medical, economic, legal and literary institutions of the United States. In my introduction, I discuss my previous project concerning all black mental institutions that emerged in the American South after Reconstruction. My first chapter, "Haunting Asylums: Madness, Slavery and the Archive," addresses my difficulties with the fragmented records of the racially segregated mental asylums and how figurations of the ghost or the inhuman failed to provide me with a salvific moment. In Chapter 2, "Compounds of Madness and Race: Governing Species, Disease and Sexuality in the Early Republic," I map the epistemic ground of race, mind and nation in the Revolutionary-era United States. My third chapter, "Worse than Useless, Too Much Sense: Enslaved Insanity in Plantations, Courtrooms and Asylums" is the culmination of previous two, where I trace the admission and treatment records of a sixteen-year-old slave interned in a mental asylum to the discourses and institutions surrounding the internal slave trade. I conclude by discussing two deaths separated by two centuries but connected by the violent conjunction of antiblackness and madness.

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