Double Crossings: Madness, Sexuality and Imperialism

Double Crossings

Double Crossings

Madness, Sexuality and Imperialism

by Anne McClintock


  • Spring 2001
  • ISBN 978-0-921870-85-2
  • ebook ISBN 978-1-55380-374-4
  • PDF ISBN 978-1-55380-375-1
  • 5-3/4″ x 9″ Trade Paperback, 32 pages
  • Cultural Studies, Literary Criticism

In her University of British Columbia Sedgwick Lecture for 2000, Professor Anne McClintock ranges from England to America, to the Congo and South Africa, and from the early nineteenth century to the present. She reveals the connections among gender, race and madness created by the dominant power centres.

In her examples, she is equally at home with the short story writer Bessie Head, the novelists Charlotte Bronte and Joseph Conrad and the psychoanalyst Carl Jung — as well as with the many commercial advertisements from the nineteenth century that conjoin whiteness and moral superiority. She shows how Western discourse figured mental deviance as a form of racial deviance, as in the figure of Bertha Mason, the unwanted wife in Jane Eyre.

On a larger scale, these same imperial centres portrayed cultures such as the Irish and the Zulus as occupying “anachronistic space.” Such cultures were allowed a presence but were typed as archaic and touched with the irrational, thus keeping them at a supposedly safe distance. But as McClintock reveals, a problem arises once one has to deal with those in the colonial situation who were actually in mental institutions, often as a result of the disruptions of imperialism, and who need to be cured or made “normal.”

Given this situation, mental illness becomes a threshold category which marks a sustained crisis for what can be thought of as “normal.” While fascinated by the ways in which the self, nation and race are constructed in discourse, McClintock also asks us to move beyond discourse studies to investigate the actual people who bore the marks of imperial legislation on their bodies.

Garnett Sedgewick Memorial Lectures: