At Home in the Institution: Material Life in Asylums, by J. Hamlett

By J. Hamlett

At domestic within the establishment examines house and fabric tradition in asylums, accommodation homes and faculties in Victorian and Edwardian England, and explores the strong impact of domesticity on all 3 institutional kinds.

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Additional info for At Home in the Institution: Material Life in Asylums, Lodging Houses and Schools in Victorian and Edwardian England

Sample text

18 But perhaps the clearest way in which these institutions struck back against their public perception was in the creation of an elaborate material world; ornate interiors that carried cultural prestige, and a fully developed social life. In this context, the domestic manners and rituals of the middle- and upper-class world took on a new meaning, as institutions and patients clung onto them as a means of support in a changed and difficult world. The varied structures, organisation and purposes of these three institutions meant that they were planned and built differently.

105 Philo also argues that this system, making the patients effectively self-surveilling, demonstrates Foucault’s interpretation of discipline within the asylum. 106 Yet it is by no means clear that we can apply ideas of surveillance to the asylum ward uncritically. In some cases, if patients were not to be restrained, constant watching was a very real necessity. 107 Such needful watching should not necessarily be equated with a deliberate attempt to control patients through surveillance. It is difficult to know how asylums could have functioned without watching suicidal and epileptic patients.

Moreover, throughout the period, a small number of patients became attached to the asylum, and were reluctant to leave. 172 Some of these long-stay patients formed an enduring attachment to the institution. 173 The inmates who did not want to leave were usually older women who feared the struggle to support themselves when they returned to the outside world. In 1846, Fanny P. 174 Mary M. entered Hanwell in 1847 – and repeatedly became ill when the subject of her discharge was brought up. By June 1849, she was considered quite well but ‘reluctant to leave the asylum.

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