Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

1-1-2018

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

M.A. in Southern Studies

Department

Southern Studies

First Advisor

Andrew C Harper

Second Advisor

Jaime Harker

Third Advisor

Kathryn McKee

Abstract

Though the first graves of assumed-former asylum patients were discovered at the University of Mississippi Medical Center over 25 years ago, it wasn’t until 2017 that the estimated body count—which had been rising in reports for several years—rose above 7,000. Along with national attention, the growing burial site has prompted large-scale efforts by a consortium of scientists and scholars to determine how best to utilize and memorialize the remains, and yet to date, a complete cultural study that explores the sociopolitical context which these people represent has yet to be published. Consisting primarily of archival material and interviews, my research seeks to connect these bodies to the history of the Mississippi State Lunatic Asylum, with the hope of—in a practical sense— creating a crucial repository of what is known of these people’s stories. In a scholarly sense, this work attempts to use a documentary lens to reveal intersections of race and lunacy in order to understand how southern institutions influenced notions of deviance and reinforced Jim Crow.

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