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Torres Luis Alberto

PhD student in History, EHESS

Contact: luis.torres.sant(at)


Dissertation title: Circulation of psychiatric knowledge between France, Spain and Chile: State, modernisation and medicalisation of madness process in Chile of nineteenth century

Under the supervision of Jean-Paul Gaudillière and Nicolas Henckes

On august 8 of 1852, the doors of the “Casa de Orates de Nuestra Señora de los Ánjeles” were opened to the public for the first time. It was the first placed dedicated exclusively to mentally ill people’s confinement in Chile, located at Santiago downtown, capital city of the country. Before the madhouse was opened, the insane people were looked up in different places: prisons, hospitals, convents and monasteries, police stations and hospices became their destiny according to the faces that madness drew upon their bodies. Nevertheless, it’s necessary to ask ourselves about the meaning of this event. Are we facing the awakening of psychiatric conscience in Chile? It’s the starting point of medical treatment of madness understood as mental disease?

This thesis project aims to analyse the circulation process of psychiatric knowledge between France, Spain and Chile during the nineteenth century based on three central aspects: the relation between psychiatric/scientific production of France, Spain and Chile; the characteristics of commitment process of mentally ill people; and, at last, the part played by the Chilean State as principal actor of the modernization process of nineteenth century’s Chilean society. This circulation of psychiatric ideas, understanding with this the possible local adjustments into the theory and practice, conforms one of the main aspects of the medicalisation of madness process in Chile.

Based on this analysis, we expect to question the psychiatry’s role as mechanism of social control and measure the significance or the impact that psychiatric knowledge could have upon social representations and practices.

Gaudillière Jean-Paul, Henckes Nicolas

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