Language referencing illness and instability in regard to African-Jamaican religions was often used by anthropologists and ethnographers writing in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It formed part of a wider discourse prevalent at the time that linked folk religions to hysteria and insanity. In Jamaica, this association contributed to social control as religious leaders, such as the prominent Revivalist Alexander Bedward, who were outspoken in challenging the socio-racial status quo, could be incarcerated in an asylum. Furthermore, it enabled the state to turn the populace away from African-derived religions and spiritual practices in order to impose cultural hegemony based on British bourgeois values. This article examines how the writings of ethnographers in the late postemancipation era reflected, reinforced, and occasionally challenged a correlation between mental illness and African-Jamaican folk religions.

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