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Institutionalization of madness: perceptions and analysis of works by Michel Foucault, Erving Goffman and Franco Basaglia

Grant number: 16/03850-3
Support Opportunities:Scholarships in Brazil - Scientific Initiation
Effective date (Start): June 01, 2016
Effective date (End): October 31, 2019
Field of knowledge:Humanities - Psychology - Social Psychology
Principal Investigator:Hélio Rebello Cardoso Júnior
Grantee:Letícia Iafelix Minari
Host Institution: Faculdade de Ciências e Letras (FCL-ASSIS). Universidade Estadual Paulista (UNESP). Campus de Assis. Assis , SP, Brazil
Associated scholarship(s):17/25494-7 - The institutionalization of deviants: a study about the re-internment of Brazil's poor and mad people, BE.EP.IC


This paper proposes a theoretical study on the works of Michel Foucault (2006, 2013, 2014), Erving Goffman (2007) and Franco Basaglia (2005), about psychiatric institutions and emphasizing the 'process of the institutionalization of madness'. The main objective is to demonstrate the perspective of each author about this process, making a comparative exercise between them. In this thread, Foucault explains that the seventeenth century was the time period in which the 'grand internment' took place, taking people that were considered deviant (like the poor, the madmen, the perverse) and confining them. These people started occupying places known as 'General Hospitals' that, in spite of its name, were not destined to healthcare, but sought to find a moral cure. The rise in numbers of these places made particular 'houses' to be founded, like the Belhomme pension, and started separating the 'madmen' from the other interns. Before the end of the eighteenth century psychiatry arises proposing the asylum institute as treatment to madness. On another note, Goffman was responsible to point to the totalitarian characteristics of these places, placing the view of the intern over the view of the institution. Basaglia, in spite of psychiatry, was one of the great critics of the hospitalocentric model, considering it a repressive institution, violent and excluding all that is considered abnormal by social norms. His studies were of great importance to the repercussion of the psychiatric reform movement known as 'Democratic Psychiatry' and shutting down Italian asylums.

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