‘Work Conquers All’: psychiatry, agricultural labor, and the Juliano Moreira Colony in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (1890–1958)




This article explores the varied forms of labor used at the Juliano Moreira Colony in Rio de Janeiro during the first half of the twentieth century. It investigates the ideological justification psychiatrists made about the therapeutic value of work, and in particular, agricultural work, as a dominant medical regimen in the Colony. It is suggested that the Colony’s elision with labor resonated with a state that placed work and the worker as socio-political and cultural national centerpieces. Its appeal to the state was most likely the reason why the colony model became the predominant hospital structure when a muscular public health structure reorganized mental health services throughout the nation. The labor of the mentally ill in the Colony had no great generative use-value since their efforts were not sufficient to make the Colony sustainable. Moreover, labor therapy was not able to fully rehabilitate the majority of patients so that they could leave the institution and enter the labor force. Indeed, the presidency of Getúlio Vargas (1930–1945, 1951–1954), with its championing of the working classes, inflected the idea of labor with new significance. Therefore, the performance of labor in the Colony, in and of itself, had potent symbolic value. The work of the mentally ill in agricultural fields or carpentry workshops, although non-productive, can be understood as repertoires of social and political claim-making.

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© 2019, Manuella Meyer.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/s41599-019-0305-y

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