Heaton, M. M.: Black Skin, White Coats: Nigerian Psychiatrists, Decolonization, and the Globalization of Psychiatry.

Author:Ude, Paula Ugochukwu
Position:Book review

Heaton, M. M. Black Skin, White Coats: Nigerian Psychiatrists, Decolonization, and the Globalization of Psychiatry. Athens, OH: University Press, 2103.

Heaton's work focuses mainly on the Western construction of mental illness as well as the concomitant policy approaches in colonial Nigeria. Well researched, this corpus serves as an important resource of policy background in understanding the political and economic policies behind the treatment of the mentally ill in colonial and post-colonial Nigeria. The book is divided into six chapters, each with two or more subsections. In an excellent introduction the author presents the work of Lambo, the first Nigerian psychiatrist. He recaptures how Lambo had organized the first Pan-African Psychiatric Conference as an effort toward the decolonization of Western conceptualization of mental health disorders in colonial Africa. According to Heaton, the aim of Lambo was to bridge the gap between traditional African conceptions of mental illness and western ideologies with the goal of achieving a more holistic and universal mental health treatment. The overarching concern of Heaton in this work is to crystallize Lambo's efforts to ensure that cultural particularities factor into mental health policies and influence the political, economic, and social dimensions of mental health issues.

In the first chapter, Heaton addresses the issue of policy in detail. He examines, for example, the policy of confinement of people with mental illness in the asylum system as introduced by British colonial powers in 1958. Pointing out the pitfalls of the asylum system as a policy, Heaton views it as wanting in adequate therapeutic treatment. The reason why is because it was based on insufficient scientific and medical knowledge of African worldviews by the colonial powers. Moreover, the policy was faulty because it was grounded in the unfounded colonial ideological construction of the African mind as inherently inferior to the Western mind. This chapter uncovers the political and economic reasons why mental health institutions during the late colonial period in Nigeria remained underfunded. In chapter two, Heaton evaluates how Lambo established a new direction in conceptualizing mental illness. Accordingly, Lambo advocated a cross-cultural, national, and international definition and system of treatment for people with mental illness in Nigeria.

Chapter three recounts how western-trained Nigerian psychiatrists...

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