De avvikande sinnessjuka? Normer och förhandlingsutrymmen kring psykisk sjukdom och steriliseringar i 1930- och 40-talens Göteborg
Sammanfattning: This essay examines the sterilisation of people with mental illness in the years 1936, 1937 and 1942 in Gothenburg. Focusing on people with mental illness, rather than the more researched so-called feeble-minded, the aim is to study the sterilisation procedure from a patient-centred perspective and thereby investigate norms, negotiation spaces and how mental illness was con- stituted from the perspective of those who were otherwise considered deviant in the emerging welfare society. This is analysed through the theoretical concept of governmentality, which argues that there is a relationship between freedom and power. Consequently, through the free- dom provided by a liberal society, people are empowered to steer themselves in directions desi- rable to society. The source material consists of patient records on which a qualitative analysis is made, supplemented by quantitative calculations. The biography of the records constitutes a methodological basis where contextualisation is seen as important. The paper concludes that sterilisation of people with mental illness must be seen as a complex issue. The doctors' and the patients' intentions was in constant interaction, while they related to the varying, sometimes contradictory, norms by which they acted. The study examines coercion and voluntariness, and both of these opposites can be problematised. The dominant notion of sterilisation as compulsory can thus be nuanced by the theory of governmentality. A simultaneous induced abortion was often associated with the sterilisations. For most of these women, exhaustion and difficulties in managing home and family, rather than explicit coercion, were the reasons for the operations. According to previous research, the ideal of work and production were fundamental norms, and behaviour deviating from these was previously attri- buted in an unfavourable way to the mentally ill individual. However, this perception of mental illness can be modified, as the study reveals how the doctors were governed by a medicalised understanding of lack of work ability associated with illness, rather than a moralistic one. Similarly, the study can nuance the emphasis on sexual immorality, where the analysis mainly indicates a permissible sexuality. The patients' negotiation spaces have also been studied, where threats could be one of the acts of resistance, and the presentation of oneself as an otherwise decent individual could be used to gain the doctors' understanding. The study can also reveal how eugenic science has been adopted and used by the population as part of its self- management. The essay clarifies how several norms, thoughts and ideas interacted in the sterilisation of people with mental illness. Hence, the study contributes to, and nuances, the extensive research that has been done on both sterilisation and mental illness.
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