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Lunatic Asylums in Colonial Bombay: Shackled Bodies, Unchained Minds (Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018)
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This book traces the historical roots of the problems in India’s mental health care system. It accounts for indigenous experiences of the lunatic asylum in the Bombay Presidency (1793-1921). The book argues that the colonial lunatic asylum failed to assimilate into Indian society and therefore remained a failed colonial-medical enterprise. It begins by assessing the implications of lunatic asylums on indigenous knowledge and healing traditions. It then examines the lunatic asylum as a ‘middle-ground’, and the European superintendents’ ‘common-sense’ treatment of Indian insanity.  Furthermore, it analyses the soundscapes of Bombay’s asylums, and the extent to which public perceptions influenced their use. Lunatic asylums left a legacy of historical trauma for the indigenous community because of their coercive and custodial character. This book aims to disrupt that legacy of trauma and to enable new narratives in mental health treatment in India.

Pinto, Sarah A, ‘Carrying on with ‘Common-Sense’: Asylum Staff as keepers of the flame in Bombay’s Lunatic Asylums, 1894-1930’, in (ed) Wynter R, Wallis J, Ellis R, Working title: anniversaries, memory and reform, Palgrave Macmillan, May 2023.

Pinto, Sarah A, 'Carrying on with “common-sense”: Rebuffing reform in Bombay´s Lunatic Asylums', 1894-1933”, Shaping the global psyche: colonialism, transcultural psychiatry and global mental health” - A DECOLMAD workshop (ERC funded), February 2023. (also presented at the Social Wellbeing Agency, March 2023)


Pinto, Sarah A, ‘Mental Health Crisis In India: Stop Blaming Stigma, Address the Historical Trauma’, Indian Journal of Social Psychiatry, 2021; 37:385-7 .

Pinto, Sarah A, '"Ka mua, ka muri": Historicizing the Impact of Mental Health care experiences in India and New Zealand', Pukorero Seminar Series, Waitangi Tribunal, August 2021.

Pinto, Sarah A, 'Indian Insanity and the Local-Colonial Contest for its Treatment, Bombay Presidency, 1793-1933', Institute of Pinto, Sarah A, Applied Health Research, University of Birmigham, April 2021.

Pinto, Sarah A, In mental health, silence is not golden, Newsroom, 15 March 2021.

Pinto, Sarah A, ‘Why we must decolonise Mental Health’, Newsroom, 3 September 2020.

Also republished by: | September 7, 2020 | September 7, 2020


Pinto, Sarah A., ‘Essay Writing Made easy as’, Victoria University of Wellington, 2019. ‘Indian Insanity and the Local - Colonial Contest for its Treatment, ‘Staff Seminar, School of History, Victoria University of Wellington, April 2019.


‘The 12 Rules for public Speaking: Workshop on Public Speaking’, Victoria University of Wellington History Programme, May 2019.


‘Indian Soldiers in World War 1’, World War One and its Legacies (Level 100), Victoria University of Wellington History Programme, April 2019 ‘WW1 and the Nationalist movement in India, World War One and its Legacies (Level 100), Victoria University of Wellington History Programme, May 2019.


‘Unsound Soundscapes: The Colaba Lunatic Asylum’, 'Exploring the Unexplored: New Perspectives on the History of Mumbai International Conference, Mumbai, January 2019.


‘Staff as “Keepers of the Flame”: Bombay Lunatic Asylums 1894-1921’, Presentation, Faith in Reform Workshop, Queen Mary University of London, July 2018.

Pinto S.A, ‘Shackled Bodies, Unchained Minds: Lunatic Asylums in the Bombay Presidency, 1793-1921’, Ph.D. Thesis, Victoria University of Wellington, 2017.Available at:


‘Unsound Soundscapes: Shrieks, Shouts and Songs’, New Historians Conference, Victoria University of Wellington, August 2017.


‘Public Perceptions of the Pagal Khana (Lunatic Asylum), 1850-1921’, Staff Seminar, School of History, Victoria University of Wellington, June 2017.


‘The Asylum as “Middle Ground”: Colonial Contestation and Indigenous Negotiations’, Staff Seminar, School of History, Victoria University of Wellington, August 2016.


‘Obsessed, Possessed, Depressed!: Ideas of Insanity its Evolution and Influence on the Asylum System in Bombay’, New Historian Conference, School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations, Victoria University of Wellington, August 2015.


Appointed Speaker at Research Symposium, ‘Mental Asylums and Colonial Psychiatry in the Bombay Presidency and research experiences in India’, Department of History, University of Mumbai, November 2014. ‘St. Xavier’s College –A History’, Paper Presentation, Mumbai University Department of History, 2008.

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