Thorazine and Terror: The Politics of Mental Healing in Accra, Ghana, 1952-1972Export this event to calendar

Friday, January 14, 2022 — 11:00 AM to 12:30 PM EST

Dr. Nana Osei Quarshie, Yale UniversityThe Department of History Speaker Series is pleased to present Dr. Nana Osei Quarshie, Assistant Professor in the History of Science and Medicine at Yale University. His research focuses on the anthropology and history of psychiatry, immigration, and urban belonging in West Africa.

This talk will examine the evolution of care at the Accra Psychiatric Hospital in the context of Accra shifting from a colonial capital to the capital city of an independent nation-state, 1951-1966. EB Forster, the first African-born psychiatrist practicing in sub-Saharan Africa and the medical officer in charge of psychiatry in late-colonial and independence Ghana, introduced the anti-psychotic Largactil (known in the USA as Thorazine) to the Accra Psychiatric Hospital. For Forster, this drug lessened the need for physical constraints and force, thus increasing the public’s willingness to utilize the hospital’s newly established outpatient clinic. 

Quarshie argues that examining the rise of outpatient care in independence era Accra must entail both the medical and the socio-political conditions of possibility that precipitated this increase. Due to displeasure with the expropriation of Ga lands, the arrival of more ‘strangers’ to Accra, and the weak position of Ga authorities in the city’s affairs, the Ga Shifimokpee (Ga Steadfast Party) engaged in a bombing campaign targeting Kwame Nkrumah that would shock the nation. Understanding the rise of outpatient care in Accra requires an examination of the shift from physical to chemical constraints alongside a concurrent assessment of how Nkrumah’s increasingly authoritarian measures and the anti-immigrant Ga Shifimokpee’s bombing campaigns heightened social anxieties.

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