Criminal lunacy and colonial discourse in Ireland, 1833 - 1916

Bermingham, P., 2021. Criminal lunacy and colonial discourse in Ireland, 1833 - 1916. PhD, Nottingham Trent University.

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Criminal lunacy has received significant attention in literature on punishment, law, psychiatry and public health, yet limited research has examined institutions for this group since the nineteenth century. Scholarship has noted the troubling representation of 'criminal lunatics' between discourses of punishment and treatment but research on their discursive representation remains absent. This is an exploratory archival study of the first such institution, the Central Criminal Lunatic Asylum which opened in 1850 in Dundrum, Dublin. Using a qualitative discourse analysis to examine archival documents from the Chief Secretary’s Office Registered Papers (CSORP) at the National Archives of Ireland (NAI) as well as supplementary sources between 1833 and 1916, this study situates the Dundrum Asylum’s history in the context of Ireland’s position as a British colony.

A search of CSORP materials was performed for each of the years 1850-1916 for correspondences related to 'criminal lunatics' and 'Dundrum'. 121 CSORP files comprising almost 9,000 pages were examined on the management of Dundrum, political and administrative communications, Commission of Inquiry reports, and psychiatric commentary on criminal lunatics. Several key themes were identified including inmate classification, responses to escapes, security issues, management disputes, and racial, class and gender-based essentialism. Supplementary sources used to support key findings were taken from online newspaper archives, Annual Reports of Inspectors of Lunatics, contemporary academic journals, and Convict Reference Files and General Prisons Board Penal Files also held at the NAI.

By using a critical discourse analysis influenced by Edward Said and Michel Foucault’s works and drawing on postcolonial theory, this research finds that representations of criminal lunacy in Ireland reinforced colonial rule. This thesis argues that between 1833 and 1916 the process of representing criminal lunatics in Ireland was akin to Said's (1978: 92) assertion of Western Orientalist discourse where 'the Orient needed first to be known, then invaded and possessed, then re-created by scholars'.

Item Type: Thesis
Description: Abridged version
Creators: Bermingham, P.
Date: January 2021
Rights: © The copyright in this work is held by the author. You may copy up to 5% of this work for private study, or personal, non-commercial research. Any re-use of the information contained within this document should be fully referenced, quoting the author, title, university, degree level and pagination. Queries or requests for any other use, or if a more substantial copy is required, should be directed to the author.
Divisions: Schools > School of Social Sciences
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 17 Mar 2021 16:17
Last Modified: 31 May 2021 15:05

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