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Memoria e Ricerca

The constitution of the criminal lunatic. The story of Natale B at the criminal lunatic asylum of Aversa (1885-1905)

di Marica Setaro
in Memoria e Ricerca n.s. 47 (2014), p. 29

Using both a historical and an epistemological approach, the essay reconstructs the formation of the notion (and of the figure) of the “criminal lunatic” inside the place of its confinement, the criminal lunatic asylum. Researching into the archival documents of the “Ospedale Psichiatrico Giudiziario” of Aversa, the author investigates the reasons for the creation of such an institution, a mix of prison and lunatic asylum. The proliferation of criminal lunatic asylums in both Europe and Italy followed from (and also validated) the recognition of a new specific condition, that of the mentally disturbed who is not accountable for their actions and yet is socially dangerous. The anonymous and previously unpublished story of the criminal lunatic Natale B. serves the author’s more general purpose of illustrating how the modern psychiatric paradigm has conflated crime and madness, by elaborating knowledge and practices aimed at naming and classifying the anomalous and antisocial character of certain identities, of certain Selves. Keywords: Danger criminal, Criminal asylum, Social defence, Historical epistemology, Making up people