Postponed | Research Seminar: 'Narrating the Life of Natalie K'

Dr Will Jackson presents a paper entitled 'Narrating the Life of Natalie K: Asylum and Welfare Records, Microhistory and ‘The Case’'.

Please note: this event has been postponed. The new date is to be confirmed.

This seminar is part of the Health Histories series in the School of History.

About the paper

This paper is a reflection on Jackson’s response to two archival files both concerning a person called Natalie K.

Natalie was born in 1917 in a Salvation Army Hostel in Cape Town, South Africa. She spent her childhood in-between homes: she lived with her mother, with foster carers and in a series of children’s homes. She also worked, in a factory, as a maid, and in domestic service. And she slept rough.

Aged twenty she was judged to be ‘mentally disordered’ and from 1937 to 1942 was treated at the Valkenberg Mental Hospital in Cape Town. Evidence for Natalie’s life to this point is contained in her Valkenberg patient file and in a case file pertaining to the South African 1913 Children’s Protection Act. Though it is possible to read these files alongside many others – there are thousands of these case records in South African archives and many thousands more elsewhere – Jackson asks what happens when writing from just one ‘case’, and from this case in particular.

Content warning

This talk includes descriptions of patient treatment in a mental hospital, including syringe injection, that some people might find upsetting.

About the speaker

Dr Will Jackson is an associate professor in imperial history in the School of History at Leeds. His research has focused on settler-colonial Africa in the twentieth century. He writes about intimacy, childhood, the family, mental illness, poverty and race. His first book is Madness and Marginality: The Lives of Kenya’s White Insane (Manchester University Press, 2013). He has published since on race in South African child welfare work; masculinity and old age; female friendship and single-motherhood; emotions in colonial letters of petition; gender and juvenile delinquency and criminal prosecutions of inter-racial sex.

Image credit

Photo by Mjseka on Unsplash.