JoAnn LoSavio

Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Smalley, Andrea L., 1960-

Degree Name

B.A. (Bachelor of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of History


Ideas have travelled a convoluted route throughout history, most paths remaining obscured until historical research untangles them. In Malaysia, the colonizing political machinations of the British from the mid-nineteenth to mid-twentieth century are often credited as a single force facilitated a wholesale movement of Eurocentric ideology into the region. It is taken as if Colonialism was a monolithic weapon which obliterated native ideology in a single swipe. Such a generalization has omitted the vital nuances and masked the actual path of history. This historical study revealed that one way in which European though merged into modern Malaysian ideology was an insidious one, hidden under a guise of noble, medical intentions. Through the implementation of psychiatric facilities for the native man, the British asserted their Eurocentric and Victorian ideas of difference and class, and formation of the “Other.” Using Eurocentric ideology, the colonial government in Malaya built a system resulting in the ethnicization of Malaya’s native and resident locals and the subversion of their culture. In effect, the colonial British government raised the social position of the European to match the political power they exerted over the Malay Peninsula and used the system of psychiatric institutionalism to do so. This study examined records from the Malaysian National Archives from 1880 to 1917. Primarily, it discussed the use of psychiatry in Colonial Malaya and considered the associations between criminality, class, and ethnicity as factors which formed a system of social control amongst the inmates of lunatic asylums, hospitals, and prisons. Secondly, scholarly studies on the use of psychiatry in Britain, India, and French Algeria were contextualized against the evidence in Colonial Malaya. In this latter section, the European origins and the Eurocentric nature of the psychiatric system became clear, lending credence to the hypothesis made that social control and colonial authority were made possible through the establishment of a European institution: the lunatic asylum.


Includes bibliographical references.


57 pages




Northern Illinois University

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