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Title: Madness and the regulation of the self in Bourbon Mexico
Author: Noble, Rebecca
ISNI:       0000 0001 2443 0337
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2017
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‘They say very clearly that I am mad, but they are the ones that do mad things’. So wrote Franciscan Friar Manuel Sevane in 1796, in one of many letters to the Viceroy of New Spain. Sevane’s letters catalogue his protest against the treatment he received at the hands of his fellow friars at the Apostolic College of Pachuca in New Spain and contest their plans to return him to Spain. Sevane’s case is an example of the rich archival material that demonstrates how the term madness was used in Bourbon Mexico (1713-1808). His words exemplify how people used madness to mark out individuals, behaviours, and ideas they thought immoral. For the friars living with Sevane, his violence, peculiar noises, and disrespect for religious practices were evidence of his madness. Sevane himself used the same rhetoric to criticise the friars for shunning him, writing reports on him, and ultimately trying to remove him from their community. Historians have yet to fully examine the complex cultural significance of the term and its role in daily life in Bourbon Mexico. This thesis provides a new interpretation of madness. It takes as its starting point Michel Foucault’s concept of ‘technologies of the self’ in order to build upon the growing history of selfhood in Mexico. By exploring the role of madness in constructing selfhood, I explain how elites used the term’s interconnections with sin to delineate the boundaries between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. The first chapter maps out an innovative historiographical framework for examining madness, introducing a range of categories of historical analysis that have not yet been used in this context. Chapter Two foregrounds a major claim of the thesis, that elite thinkers considered human sin to put all individuals at risk of falling into madness. It explores the relationship between the concepts of sin and madness that underpinned elite uses of madness as a rhetorical tool in a selection of sermons, political tracts, philosophical texts, and poems. Chapter Three analyses underexplored medical texts and shows that madness was understood to be humoral throughout the period. It also argues that madness did not become a secular concept in the eighteenth century; rather, medical texts conceived of madness as a tool for moral regulation. The fourth chapter examines the ways people used their bodies and how others used their sensory perceptions to label individuals as mad. Drawing on histories of the senses and emotions, the chapter analyses exceptionally detailed cases of clerical madness from missionary and Inquisition records. Chapter Five examines how the categories of gender and calidad, a socio-racial term denoting quality or status, interacted with the concept of madness in Inquisition cases. I conclude that an analysis of madness enables us to deepen our understanding of what it was to be human in Bourbon Mexico.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Economic and Social Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: F1201 Latin America (General) ; RC Internal medicine