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History department hosts lecture on human rights in apartheid-era South Africa

March 2, 2012

The Department of History at Loyola University New Orleans presents Tiffany Jones, Ph.D., in the lecture, “Apartheid Madness: Deconstructing Allegations of Human Rights Abuse in Psychiatric Institutions during Apartheid South Africa,” on Monday, March 5 at 6:30 p.m. in Miller Hall, Room 114. The event is free and open to the public.

According to Jones, assistant professor of African history at California State University San Bernardino, in the late 1970s, South African mental institutions were plagued with scandals about human rights abuse, and psychiatric practitioners were accused of being agents of the apartheid state. These allegations were reminiscent of those abuses that occurred in Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia. Indeed, between 1939 and 1994, some psychiatric practitioners supported the mandate of the racist and heteropatriarchal government, and most mental patients were treated abysmally.

Jones not only examines the mistreatment that existed in mental institutions during apartheid, but also places the discussion of South Africa’s mental institutions in an international context, highlighting the role that international organizations, such as the Church of Scientology, and political events, such as the gay rights movement and the Cold War, also played in shaping mental health policy in South Africa.

More importantly, however, Jones challenges predominant presumptions that women, homosexuals and minorities were institutionalized in far higher numbers than heterosexual men. Unlike studies worldwide of mental institutions that show that women and minorities made up (and continue to make up) the bulk of admissions to mental hospitals, Jones reveals how in South Africa, per capita, white heterosexual men were the majority of patients in state institutions. The reasons for this discrepancy will be discussed, and in doing so, will reveal the very contradictory and convoluted nature of apartheid in South Africa itself.

The event is co-sponsored by African and African American Studies, the Biever Guest Lecture Series and Legal Studies.

For more information, contact Loyola history professor Sara M. Butler, Ph.D., at 504-865-2099 or sbutler@loyno.edu.

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