Julie Parle

My research interests span the fields of the history of psychological health and - across cultures - the quest for therapeutic strategies; the history of gender; of colonialism; and of epidemics, both biological and social. In the context of southern Africa my research embraces the issues such as suicide, psychiatry, witchcraft, spirit possession, hysteria, hallucinations, dreams, religion, and medical pluralism. My monograph, States of Mind: Searching for Mental Health in Natal & Zululand, 1868-1918, was published by the University of KwaZulu-Natal Press in 2007. From 2005 I was co-researcher and project co-ordinator with Professor Catherine E Burns (WISER) and Dr Vanessa Noble for the South African National Heritage Council project called “Health Pioneers in South Africa”. This project focuses on a critical history of McCord “Zulu” Hospital in Durban, which is of regional, national and international importance to the history of medicine and the training of nurses and health professionals in Southern Africa. The manuscript is currently under review. Most recently, I have widened my research to include the history of emotions and notions of propriety, privacy, the family and psychiatric committal in KwaZulu-Natal. I have also published on the challenges of the ethics of archival research on mental illness and, more generally, for the professional historians working in the Southern African region. In August 2012, Vanessa Noble and I co-convened a workshop ‘New Directions in the Histories of Health, Healing and Medicine in African Contexts’ which brought together both regional and international historians, anthropologists, psychologists and other scholars working in this exciting area of academic research. An overview and selection of these papers will be published as a special edition of the international journal Medical History in 2014.


HAAS Seminars