Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS)


Dr Shilpi Rajpal

Dr Shilpi Rajpal is primarily a social historian of psychiatry and at present is an ERC postdoctoral fellow at the Department of English, Germanic and Romance Studies at the University of Copenhagen. Her project ‘Decolonising the Mind: Birth of the Global Mental Health Movement in India, 1920-1980s’ traces the local, national and global histories of psychiatry in colonial and post-colonial India. Her previous work, Curing Madness? A Social and Cultural History of Insanity in North India, 1800-1950s, was published in December 2020 by Oxford University Press, New Delhi. The book focuses on both institutional and non-institutional histories of madness in colonial North India. ‘Madness’ and ‘cure’ are explored as shifting categories, which travelled across cultural, medical, national, and regional boundaries, thereby moving beyond asylum centric histories.

Dr Rajpal's research at the IAS focused on Indian psychiatrists and psychologists practising in Britain as well as on the British mental health practitioners in colonial and postcolonial India. The emergence of psychiatry, psychology and the psychoanalysis were understood from political, social and cultural lenses accounting for the bilateral exchange of knowledge, men (sometimes women), method and practice. The research systematically unearthed the archives such as personal letters, memoirs, private papers, audio/visual archives and published and unpublished material between the period of World War I until the 1980s. The objectives of the study were to look at the decolonisation process of psychiatry in India and India’s emergence as a significant partner within the global exchange of knowledge formation.