Madness, Architecture and Constraint: The role of the built environment in the mental institutions of New South Wales
Author(s): Peta Longhurst
The mental asylums of the nineteenth century, influenced by the concepts of moral therapy and non-restraint, were intended to be curative environments capable of reforming the mad. The architecture and built environment of these institutions was in essence the treatment, making the asylums both highly ideological and also inextricably physical. Through a comparative analysis of four such institutions in New South Wales, this paper will examine the tensions between the social and material components of the asylum. By considering both the historical and archaeological records of the sites, it will be shown that the institutions did not reflect the ‘ideal’ institution envisaged by the proponents of moral therapy. Instead, the institutions were continually modified both materially and discursively in order to bring them closer to an ideal that they could only fleetingly meet. In this way, the built environment constrained the asylum’s ability to reform its inhabitants.
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Madness, Architecture and Constraint: The role of the built environment in the mental institutions of New South Wales. Peta Longhurst. Presented at Society for Historical Archaeology, Leicester, England, U.K. 2013 ( tDAR id: 428260)
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