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A Hospital Journal. Reforming Psychiatry in Colonial Algeria during Wartime (1953–1959)

Un journal à l’hôpital. Réformer la psychiatrie dans l’Algérie coloniale en guerre (1953-1959)
Um jornal no hospital. Reformar a psiquiatria na Argélia colonial em guerra (1953-1959)
Paul Marquis
Translated by Simon Dix
This article is a translation of:
Un journal à l’hôpital. Réformer la psychiatrie dans l’Algérie coloniale en guerre (1953-1959) [fr]

Abstracts

Between 1953 and 1959, the Blida-Joinville Psychiatric Hospital (HPB) published a weekly magazine with the sober title Notre Journal. It was written jointly by the colonial hospital’s patients, nursing staff and doctors, and was seen as the “social cement” of a vast medical reform undertaken on the initiative of Dr Frantz Fanon. The journal was a supporter and a privileged witness of the reform, and was one of the places where socialtherapy was developed in word and deed, and where its achievements, representations and contradictions could be seen most clearly. By analysing the 165 issues that appeared in the course of the weekly’s six years of existence, this article points out the interest this source has for the history of psychiatry and its reform in colonial Algeria.
A study of the copies of the journal makes it possible to separate the history of Algerian collective psychotherapy from that of its pioneer. Without downplaying Dr Fanon’s influence on the trajectory of a medical reform of which he was the architect, the aim of this article is to give the project back its historical and collective depth. By revealing the ways the junior doctors, nursing staff and patients appropriated and implemented the principles defended by the Martinican psychiatrist on a daily basis, it reminds us that socialtherapy was not simply part of the actions and itinerary of one man alone: just as the signs of collective psychotherapy preceded Frantz Fanon’s arrival in Algeria, the reform survived his departure, in spite of the problems that followed it.
The article makes the in-house weekly its topic of interest and principal source, and in so doing assesses the role played by Notre Journal in the transformation of psychiatric practices at the HPB. By turns a vehicle for dissemination, a therapeutic resource, a tool for professionalisation and a political forum, the magazine was unquestionably one of the principal representatives of the paradigm supported by Dr Fanon. While it contributed to a change in the level of the reformist dynamic and was a collective voice for patients’ claims and recriminations, it also revealed a variable geometry of reform: depending on their beliefs, resources or personal status, psychiatrist, junior doctors, nurses and patients took hold of the project begun by Dr Fanon in different ways.
Finally, while it makes the portrait of Algerian socialtherapy more complex, this article invites us not to overestimate the specificity of the reform engaged at the HPB. In terms of the rhetoric used in the pages of the in-house weekly, and of the protocol and treatment techniques applied, the approach that was begun in Algeria was inspired by previous experiences in Metropolitan France. What was unique about the overseas experience was for the most part of the interest shown in the local culture and beliefs, which gave rise to a cross-community paradigm that acted as a radical, alternative societal project. In the context of colonial Algeria during wartime, the journal had great difficulty maintaining its status as a safeguard in the face of intensifying political and military tensions, which in all likelihood had an impact on its disappearance.

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Author’s notes

This article has received support from the ERC MaDAf project no. 852488, “A History of Madness in West Africa: Governing Mental Disorder during Decolonisation (Senegal, Burkina Faso and Ghana - 1940s – 1970s).”
https://cordis.europa.eu/project/id/852448/fr.

Full text

I would like to thank the entire MaDaf project team for their re-readings at the various phases of preparation of this article, and the editorial team from the Sources journal for their insightful remarks and comments.

Data associated with this article
Notre Journal. A weekly in-house magazine produced at the Blida-Joinville Psychiatric Hospital (Algeria). 165 issues published between 1953 and 1959.
Collection not available online. Stored at the Frantz Fanon Psychiatric Hospital in Blida (incomplete collection).
3, Rue Louise de Bettignie, Blida, Algeria.
Coordinates: 36°29’01.0"N 2°47’48.0"E. [geo:36.4836111,2.7940918].
Five reproductions and transcriptions from this source are included in this article.
Frantz Fanon’s editorials in Notre Journal has been published in: Fanon, Frantz. 2018. Écrits sur l'aliénation et la liberté. Paris: La Découverte. https://doi.org/​10.3917/​dec.fanon.2018.01.

1On 24 December 1953, the Blida-Joinville Psychiatric Hospital (HPB), located about fifty kilometres south-west of Algiers, published the first issue of an in-house weekly magazine with the sober name Notre Journal. In his editorial, Doctor Frantz Fanon, head-doctor of the hospital’s fifth medical ward, used the metaphor of a ship’s logbook:

  • 1 All the texts from the journal reproduced in this article are summarised in chronological order in (...)

“Every day, a bland, often badly-printed sheet appears with no photos. But every day this sheet brings some life into the ship. We learn about new events on board: entertainment, cinema, concerts and the next port. Of course, we also find out the news from land. Although the ship is isolated, it stays in contact with the outside: that is, with the world. Why? Because in two or three days, the passengers will be back with their relatives and friends, and back home.”
(Frantz Fanon, “Mémoire et Journal,” Notre Journal no.1, year 1, 24 December 1953.1 Document reproduced and transcribed in the annex to this article)

2That Christmas Eve, the psychiatrist took a few words to summarise the journal’s interest in the reforms to treatments he had been encouraging since his arrival at the HPB a few weeks earlier. The journal was intended to enable patients to be reintegrated into society more quickly and more easily by contributing towards breaking up their patients’ inactivity and isolation.

  • 2 Emmanuel Delille (2013) counted almost forty in-house journals between 1945 and 1975.

3At the time Notre Journal was taking its first steps in Algeria, similar journals were already circulating in several dozen metropolitan hospitals,2 a sign of the spread of the vast nebula grouped together under the title “collective psychotherapy,” which is also known as “institutional psychotherapy” and “socialtherapy.” The movement was led by a group of reformist psychiatrists, all of whom had done internships at the psychiatric hospitals of the Seine, the elite pathway for the profession, and had served in the Resistance networks during the Second World War (Henckès 2007, 160–70). The famine that had struck psychiatric hospitals during the Occupation confirmed that they needed to be reformed (Von Bueltzingsloewen 2009, 413–15), and so these young doctors reappropriated the reforming dynamic that had been begun between the wars and profoundly reconfigured it (Henckès 2009). The ambition behind this developing project was to make a psychiatric hospital as a whole an instrument for treating mental illness. Ultimately, collective psychotherapy was like an “everyday revolution” (Von Bueltzingsloewen 2001), that mobilised every dimension of the ordinary life of psychiatric hospitals for treatment purposes.

  • 3 The references marked with an asterisk (*) refer to the list of “Printed sources and primary compl (...)

4This reformist dynamic crossed over from Metropolitan France until it came to be established between the walls of the HPB. The hospital was opened in 1933, and twenty years later it was still the only public psychiatric hospital in the whole of Algeria. This colonial institution was intended to admit chronically ill patients who were sent there from the three neuropsychiatric services in Alger, Oran and Constantine (Bégué 1989; Collignon 2006; Keller 2007), which were qualified as the “front line.” Although the hospital’s five psychiatrists found the medical equipment to be “very satisfactory” (Dequeker et al. 1955*3), the doctors had long been complaining about the extreme congestion in Algeria’s mental health system. The HPB took in over 2,000 “Algerian” and “European” patients of both sexes, who were admitted to wings whose initial capacity was regularly doubled in order to tackle the need for beds. Patients were divided based on a triple criterion of gender, race and behaviour (Marquis 2021, 108–12). In this situation, giving the hospital back its “therapeutic effectiveness” by means of a wide-ranging reform was more urgent than it had ever been before.

5Up to the present day, the history of socialtherapy in Algeria has remained inseparable from the story of the man who created it. It has been analysed in turn from the standpoint of Frantz Fanon’s professional, biographical and intellectual trajectory (Postel and Razanajo 1975; Cherki 2011; Macey 2013; Khalfa 2015; Bessone 2016; Gibson and Beneduce 2017). The approaches that make the processes applied at HPB a part of a more global history of colonial psychiatry in the Maghreb (Keller 2007) or the institutional psychotherapy movement (Murard 2008; Robcis 2020) are no exception to the tropism surrounding Fanon. Although these studies have demonstrated how Doctor Fanon’s psychiatric concepts and practices nourished his thought and political action, they say nothing about some of the less well-known facets of the therapeutic reform.

  • 4 The article by Emmanuel Delille (2013) we referred to above is the only one that has specifically (...)

6Without denying Fanon’s decisive influence on the structuring of socialtherapy in Algeria, this article takes a position that goes “beyond Fanon” (Edington 2013), in an attempt to restore all the reformist movement’s historical and collective depth to it. To this end, the focus of our investigation is on a different protagonist: Notre Journal. Although these in-house weekly magazines continued a long tradition of institutional journals produced in schools or hospitals, little is still known about their influence on the renewal of psychiatric practices after the end of the Second World War.4 They were written jointly by the patients, the nursing staff and the doctors at the hospitals involved, and they are doubly interesting to anyone who is involved in the history of collective psychotherapy. As supporters of, and privileged witnesses to the reform, they are both a space where socialtherapy developed in word and deed and one where its achievements, representations and contradictions could be most clearly seen. In particular, an analysis of the copies of Notre Journal makes it possible to study the singular nature of the approach adopted at the HPB on the eve of the Algerian War of Independence. In a context such as this, did the colonial hospital’s in-house weekly magazine contribute towards giving Algerian socialtherapy a specific medical, cultural or political orientation?

  • 5 Unfortunately, the originals have not yet been rediscovered.
  • 6 The hospital was renamed after the psychiatrist in 1963.
  • 7 They are numbers 9 to 12 from 1954; numbers 3, 5, 7, 9 to 12, 24, 40, 41, 44, 46, 47, 50 and 52 fr (...)
  • 8 The first issue from 1958 and the 19 August issue from 1959.

7This article is based mainly on a review of the 165 issues of the weekly journal that have been preserved in the form of photocopies5 in a prefabricated building at the Frantz Fanon University Hospital, which was formally known as the HPB.6 The ways the copies of Notre Journal can be accessed and the conditions they have been archived in explain why the journal has not inspired more interest, despite the recent publication of Frantz Fanon’s editorials (Fanon 2018). The opportunities to investigate them are unquestionably limited by the poor quality of the copies, which makes some of them partially illegible. Around thirty issues from between 1953 and 1957 are also missing,7 and only two issues from the two subsequent years have been preserved.8 The weekly magazine was published until at least August 1959 and no one knows if it continued to be published after that, and so the reflections in this article are principally based on its four first years of life. Despite these limitations, a qualitative and quantitative analysis of this unpublished source makes it possible to return several of the fundamental actors in the psychiatric reform who have been made partly invisible by the omnipresent figure of Frantz Fanon to the front of the stage, starting with the journal itself. The occasional use of other types of document (scientific dissertations and publications, administrative and medical archives) is a useful counterpoint to the issues of Notre Journal, and helps highlight the gaps and the things that were left unsaid in a source that offers a subjective vision of socialtherapy in Algeria. This article is structured around the weekly magazine’s four principal attributions as a vehicle for dissemination, a therapeutic resource, a tool for professionalisation and a political forum, and ultimately seeks to demonstrate the ways in which this source is of interest to the history of psychiatry and how it was reformed in colonial Algeria.

The “Social cement” of a multi-speed reform

“Our journal is a powerful link among all of us. It is also a bridge for understanding and a remarkable point of contact.”
(M. Cohen, “Un petit Parlement,” Notre Journal, no. 44, year 1, 21 October 1954)

8To explain, bring together, and make visible: according to the nurse in charge of writing the editorial for the 21 October 1954 issue, these were the primary functions of the in-house weekly. The journal was the reference point and spearhead of an initiative that was designed to be spread throughout the whole hospital from Dr Fanon’s fifth medical ward, and reveals and documents the vagaries of the introduction of socialtherapy. Although the reform successfully overcame the reluctance it initially caused in wards of Algerian patients, it attracted various degrees of support, which limited its application within the HPB.

A reference point at the heart of the fifth medical ward

9As the editorial of number 43 of Notre Journal reminds us, the introduction of the first types of collective psychotherapy at HPB preceded Dr Fanon’s arrival:

“It appears that some well-intentioned people who have been misinformed or have short memories believe, and are reporting, that the organisation of a social life for patients [...] only dates from a few months back. [...] Adding an alleyway to a building and having it repainted cannot mean that the whole thing has been built.”
(Jean Dequeker et al., “Éditorial”, Notre Journal, no. 43, year 1, 14 October 1954)

  • 9 Doctors Ramée and Dequeker were appointed to the HPB in 1945 and 1948 respectively.

10Although this text was signed by the hospital’s five head doctors, it was probably written by Doctors Ramée (1906–1987) and Dequeker (1927–2019), who worked at the HPB from the second half of the 1940.9 In the view of Fanon’s colleagues, insisting that the new arrival’s approach should be described as “revolutionary” was initially interpreted as disparaging the previous practices. However, a little over ten years after they arrived at the colonial hospital, collective therapies were still at a drafting stage. The rudiments of a stadium and a library, the two occupational therapy workshops and the few joint outings organised at the HPB were a long way from matching the scale of the reform Frantz Fanon had observed when he was an intern at the psychiatric hospital in Saint-Alban-sur-Limagnole, in Lozère, which is what he was seeking to reproducing in Algeria.

  • 10 The journal is currently the subject of a study by Coline Fournout as part of her anthropology the (...)

11At this “shrine” of collective psychotherapy (Henckès 2007, 222–23; Von Bueltzingsloewen 2009, 376–78), the future psychiatrist had been able to assess the central importance of in-house weekly magazines, which were seen as an “essential tool” in the creation of a “therapeutic community” (Daumézon et al. 1948*, 207; Benoiston 1952*). He collaborated for a year and a half on publishing Trait-d’Union, the journal issued by Saint-Alban hospital,10 alongside Doctor François Tosquelles (1912–1994), who was a leading figure in the reformist movement (Robcis 2021, 15–47; Tosquelles 2021). It therefore comes as no surprise that the creation of Notre Journal was one of the first initiatives undertaken by Frantz Fanon when he arrived at the HPB at the end of 1953. Like the department meetings, which were seen as an indispensable way of making the relationships among head doctors more relaxed (Henckès 2007, 235–41), the in-house weekly was intended to contribute towards injecting a truly cooperative atmosphere, removing the reticence to which Doctor Fanon’s dynamic inevitably gave rise.

  • 11 At the Vinatier Hospital (Rhône), the wing chosen for the first attempts of collective psychothera (...)

12At the time he took up his position—it was his first as a full-time psychiatrist—Fanon’s medical and therapeutic legitimacy was far from being established. The relationships between the doctors, hospital administration and the nursing staff were still suffering from the consequences of the 46-day strike of April and May 1951, which had enabled the HPB’s staff to obtain an alignment of their status with that of their peers in Metropolitan France (Marquis 2021, 506–16). The discourses of Doctor Fanon and his interns in their editorials were intended to clarify and illustrate the benefits of their approach, so as to achieve the general involvement of the staff and patients in their department. The reference to the “Weekly in-house journal of the Clérambault wing” that appeared in the banner of the newly-created journal (Figure 1) is a reminder that Fanon had made the choice to prioritise the transformations he envisaged in one of the four buildings that made up the medical ward he was now in charge of. Despite the fact that the “senile” and “chronic” patients who made up the majority of the 160 European women in the ward in question did not offer the best possible guarantees of positive results,11 Doctor Fanon and his team would soon be able to congratulate themselves on the success of the first measures they put in place.

Figure 1. Banner of Notre Journal, no. 19, 29 April 1954, p.1

Figure 1. Banner of Notre Journal, no. 19, 29 April 1954, p.1

Photograph: Paul Marquis.
Source: Archives of the Frantz Fanon Psychiatric Hospital, Blida.

Transcription

Notre Journal
HOPITAL PSYCHIATRIQUE DE BLIDA-JOINVILLE
N° 19
Abonnement Mensuel : 40 Francs.
29 AVRIL 1954
PRIX au N°: 10 F.
HEBDOMADAIRE INTERIEUR DU PAVILLON DE CLERAMBAULT
Paraissant le Jeudi
Ce journal ne doit pas sortir de l’établissement

Translation

Notre Journal
PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL OF BLIDA-JOINVILLE
No. 19
29 APRIL 1954
Monthly subscription: 40 Francs
Price per issue 10 F
IN-HOUSE WEEKLY JOURNAL OF THE CLERAMBAULT WING
Published on Thursdays
This journal must not leave the hospital

The indicator of a cultural inadaptation

13On the strength of the success they noted in the “experimental setting” of the women’s section (Fanon and Azoulay 1954), the psychiatrist and his interns began to apply an equivalent protocol to the 220 Algerian patients they were also in charge of. Weekly meetings, patient committees, evening parties, movie nights and other occupational therapy workshops were gradually introduced into the Raynaud and Jaubertie wings to create the conditions of a “social life that would help the patients” (Daumézon 1955). After several months of effort, the fifth ward’s medical team from could only bemoan the low level of involvement and the reticence demonstrated by the nursing staff and the Algerian patients. The difficulty in involving them in the in-house journal was viewed as being especially symptomatic of this situation: “As for the journal, which was intended to be of real use as social cement, it is still a foreign object for the patients; after six months, only one article by a Muslim patient has appeared. To be clear, this was the same paranoid patient who lamented the fact that that male roles were interpreted by women,” complained Jacques Azoulay (1927–2011), one of Frantz Fanon’s interns, in the medical thesis he dedicated to socialtherapy at the HPB in 1954 (Azoulay 1954*, 24).

14It is likely that Doctor Fanon had anticipated some of the problems that were encountered and viewed them as an inevitable stage in the process (Khalfa 2015). In order to understand the reasons behind this malfunction better, he and his team undertook a sociological study so they would be able to determine the social and cultural make-up of the department’s population. Turning to a technique such as this was nothing new—it had been used before by his colleagues in Metropolitan France (Henckès 2007, 217), but the conclusions that were reached on the conclusion of the investigation were novel. The inertia noted in the Algerian men’s wards was a result of the unsuitable nature of the activities that had been put in place there. Here again, the journal was considered as an indicator: how was it possible not to link the lack of involvement of the male patients in the production of the weekly magazine to the incidence of illiteracy among a population that was mostly made up of fellas and agricultural day workers (Fanon et Azoulay 1954*, 358)? Of the 220 male patients in the fifth ward, in fact, Jacques Azoulay counted 204 illiterates (Azoulay 1954*, 33), over nine-tenths of the department.

15When they realised that the social and cultural references they had been using as part of the approach used at the HPB were broadly inappropriate, Fanon and his interns radically changed their position: “A revolutionary attitude was indispensable, in fact, because we needed to move away from the position that Western culture was clearly pre-eminent to one of a cultural relativism” (Azoulay 1954*, 26). Ultimately, the “rhetoric of singularity” applied in collective psychotherapy, which consisted in re-creating a therapeutic atmosphere that was comparable, but inevitably different, from one hospital to the next (Henckès 2007, 232–33), had a special resonance at the HPB. By establishing “respect for cultural originality” (Azoulay 1954*, 64) as its guideline, Doctor Fanon’s team also moved away from the approaches that had been used previously at the colonial hospital, and from those applied in institutional psychotherapy in Metropolitan France.

The spearhead of a large-scale reform

  • 12 Doctor Beley, cited in the “Éditorial” (Notre Journal, no. 23, year 2, 26 May 1955).

16Like his colleagues in Metropolitan France, Dr Fanon’s aspirations for reform were not limited to the confines of his department: the aim reported in Notre Journal was to make the HPB as a whole “a city of resocialisation.”12 The inter-ward medical meetings did not immediately enjoy the hoped-for success, and so the head doctor and his team engaged in a “bridgehead” strategy, which was being tried out by his Metropolitan colleagues at the time (Von Bueltzingsloewen 2001, 25). By making the fifth medical ward’s initiatives visible, the in-house weekly acted as a showcase for other psychiatrists in the hospital. The doctor who was the quickest to follow in Frantz Fanon’s footstep was Raymond Lacaton (1921–2003), the head doctor of the second medical ward, who had been working at the HPB for little more than a year. Their alliance was accompanied by a column in Notre Journal reserved for patients and staff of the second ward. The description of the journal also changed: on 13 May 1954, it became “the weekly in-house magazine of the Blida-Joinville Psychiatric Hospital” (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Banner of Notre Journal, no. 21, 13 May 1954, p.1.

Figure 2. Banner of Notre Journal, no. 21, 13 May 1954, p.1.

Photograph: Paul Marquis.
Source: Archives of the Frantz Fanon Psychiatric Hospital, Blida.

Transcription

Notre Journal
HOPITAL PSYCHIATRIQUE DE BLIDA-JOINVILLE
HEBDOMADAIRE INTERIEUR
Paraissant le Jeudi
N° 21
Abonnement Mensuel : 40 Francs.
13 MAI 1954
Prix au N°: 10 F.
Ce journal ne doit pas sortir de l’établissement

Translation

Notre Journal
PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL OF BLIDA-JOINVILLE
IN-HOUSE WEEKLY JOURNAL
Published on Thursdays
No. 21
13 MAY 1954
Monthly subscription: 40 Francs
Price per issue 10 F
This journal must not leave the hospital

  • 13 “Comité de lecture” [Reading Committee] (Notre Journal, no. 47, year 3, 15 November 1956).
  • 14 Initial budget for 1960. Archives of the Wilaya of Algiers, 1V123.
  • 15 François Sanchez, “Éditorial” (Notre Journal, no. 39, year 2, 15 September 1955).
  • 16 [Illegible author], “Éditorial” (Notre Journal, no. 33, year 3, 9 August 1956). The poor quality o (...)

17The change in the level of collective psychotherapy at the HPB was accompanied by a diversification of the activities on offer, and Notre Journal became the intermediary. When it announced the screenings organised by the cinema committee in the hospital chapel, the in-house weekly also reported on the numerous matches and other events organised by the sports committee. It published the reports of the reading committee, which had the aim of “attracting all residents to read in French and Arabic,”13 as well as those of the meetings of the Algerian Mental Hygiene Society, which was created in the summer of 1955 to manage the revenues from the therapeutic activities and to make the reform visible outside the hospital. The journal also highlighted patient participation in the ten or so occupational therapy workshops the hospital rapidly counted,14 which went from manufacturing raffia bags and placemats to children’s toys, and from knitting and sewing to gardening. A new development in how the journal was printed is another indicator of the way socialtherapy gradually became institutionalised at the HPB. On 15 September 1955, the intern François Sanchez announced the long-awaited purchase of a new printing press so that the weekly could be printed on four pages. By liberating the journal from the artisanal image associated with the “initial little school machine,” the acquisition of a machine that “resembles those used by professional printers”15 was seen as a symbol of the fact that a new stage had been reached in the transformation of the hospital’s practices. Although collective psychotherapy was only established late in Algeria, the colonial hospital was soon able to boast in the editorial of its weekly in-house magazine that it was “one of the psychiatric hospitals with the most varied social activities.”16

A level of involvement correlated with the varying degrees of enrolment

  • 17 Frédéric Ramée, “Éditorial” (Notre Journal, no. 51, year 2, 8 December 1955).

18The enthusiasm on display in Notre Journal in the summer of 1956 should not obscure the limits of the spread of the reform in the HPB. Although Raymond Lacaton quickly revealed that he was fully in line with the principles of socialtherapy, the enrolment of other head doctors in the hospital into the venture Dr Fanon had embarked on was more measured. The creation of the fifth ward from nowhere had already led to resistance on the part of his colleagues, who showed little inclination to have some of the wings that had been under their authority removed for the benefit of the new arrival (Cherki 2011, 93–94). Issue number 51 of the in-house weekly dated 8 December 1955 once again offered Dr Ramée the opportunity to voice his reservations about the rhetoric used by the supporters of socialtherapy: “Giving new names to describe things that are more than a century old does not constitute a ‘revolution,’” the psychiatrist thundered.17 However, Doctors Ramée and Dequeker’s initial prudence did not prevent them from joining a dynamic that they ended up being positive about, as the announcements and reports of activities by the first and fourth medical wards that increasingly popped up in the pages of the weekly magazine testify.

19Only Doctor Micucci’s third ward stayed away from the collective dynamic for any length of time. Two years after the journal had been created and the first measures had been introduced, Doctor Lacaton took advantage of the start of a new year to call out to his colleague:

“Every month I have to complain about the absence of representatives from the third ward, whose residents participate so magnificently in our shared success through their generous work. I know this absence is regretted by everyone, and the best hope I could express for Notre Journal would be the joy of announcing the end of this separation in 1956.”
(Raymond Lacaton, “Meilleurs vœux et bon anniversaire à ‘Notre Journal’” [Best wishes and happy anniversary to ‘Notre Journal’], Notre Journal, no. 1, year 3, 29 December 1955).

20According to Alice Cherki’s (1936- ) testimony, another of Frantz Fanon’s interns, the manager of the third medical ward lived “shut away” in the hospital (Cherki 2011, 92). It is very likely that the repeated attacks she suffered from trade union representatives because of the positions she had taken during the 1951 strike did not encourage her to join an initiative that required her to collaborate closely with members of staff who reported to her. There is no doubt that her more conservative medical notions, which linked her to the “stationary camp” (Von Bueltzingsloewen 2010, 24), also pushed her away from a wide-ranging collective reform.

  • 18 These 440 articles do not include texts written by doctors and nursing staff or joint articles.
  • 19 We should recall that 10 of the 52 issues from 1956 are missing from the HPB’s archives.
  • 20 The 126 remaining articles came from the male and female open services, which represented alternat (...)

21The different levels of involvement in the production of the in-house journal among the various medical wards confirm that the establishment of socialtherapy was largely contingent on the level of enrolment of head doctors. A quantitative study of the 440 articles written by patients of the hospital in Notre Journal during 1956 reveals a very clear discrepancy in patient participation from one department to the next.18 Dr Fanon’s fifth ward alone was the source of 203 articles, nearly half the columns published in the 42 issues consulted.19 Unsurprisingly, Doctor Lacaton’s second ward came after Dr Fanon’s, contributing a seventh of the articles—69 out of 440. The two departments run by Doctors Dequeker and Ramée jointly contributed only one-tenth of the columns published, 11 and 31 articles respectively. Despite the regularly repeated calls in the pages of Notre Journal, Doctor Micucci’s third ward was totally absent.20 Ultimately, although the in-house weekly undoubtedly participated in, and bore witness to, the gradual establishment of socialtherapy at the HPB, it was a multi-speed reform that involved the personnel and patients from the hospital’s five medical wards to different degrees.

A selective therapeutic resource

22In December 1955, a nurse called S. Domenech responded in an article to a questionnaire on the usefulness of the in-house journal:

“In a psychiatric hospital [...], the journal is indispensable. Its rule is to act as an intermediary, which allows a patient to activate his cure, because the effort he puts into writing is a good thing for his illness.”
(S. Domenech, untitled, Notre Journal, no. 51, year 2, 8 December 1955).

23In the view of Domenech, who, in his own words, was relying on his eighteen months of experience on the publishing committee, the journal’s therapeutic vocation was based on its ability to involve patients at all stages of the design of Notre Journal, from choosing a name for the magazine to deciding on the content of its articles and printing it. However, although a minority of patients successfully made the journal a space for discussion and claims, their involvement was contingent on their ability to write and to express words that were deemed to be “sensible.”

An “in-house voice” at the service of a “culture of contestation”

“During the first stages of treatment of a patient, taking on activities can depend on the authority of the nurse or some other member of the hospital staff, but as treatment progresses, responsibility for the creation and pursuit of an activity must be handed over to the patients themselves.”
(Organisation mondiale de la Santé, “Extrait du 3ème rapport du Comité d’experts de la santé mentale” [World Health Organisation, “Extract from the third report of the Expert Committee on Mental Health”], Notre Journal, no. 13, year 1, 18 March 1954)

24The editorial in the 18 March 1950 issue (Figure 3), which reproduces a report by WHO experts, was a reminder that in collective psychotherapy, patients are viewed as full actors in the occupations assigned to them. As was the case with most of the activities established at the HPB, the ones connected with the publication of the journal were supervised by two patient committees: the journal committee and the printing committee. The former operated like an editorial committee: under the eyes of a doctor, and with support from nursing staff, the group of patients discussed and decided collectively whether one text or another was of interest or whether one or another should be written. As its name suggests, the latter committee was in charge of printing the journal on a roneotype machine.

Figure 3. Notre Journal, no. 13, 18 March 1954, p. 1

Figure 3. Notre Journal, no. 13, 18 March 1954, p. 1

Photograph: Paul Marquis.
Source: Archives of the Frantz Fanon Psychiatric Hospital, Blida.

Transcription

Notre Journal
HÔPITAL PSYCHIATRIQUE DE BLIDA-JOINVILLE
No. 13
Abonnement Mensuel: 40 Francs.
18 MARS 1954
Prix au No: 10 Frs.
HEBDOMADAIRE INTERIEUR DU PAVILLON DE CLERAMBAULT
Paraissant le Jeudi
Ce journal ne doit pas sortir de l’Etablissement
Le 6 MARS 1954
[Première colonne]
Dans les premiers stades du traitement du malade, la reprise de l’activité peut dépendre de l’autorité de l’infirmier ou de quelque autre membre du personnel de l’hôpital, mais, à mesure que le traitement progresse, la responsabilité de la création et de la poursuite d’une activité doit être abandonnée aux malades eux-mêmes. Cela est vrai également des autres aspects de la vie à l’hôpital. Si l’hôpital psychiâtrique veut être une communauté thérapeutique, il doit progressivement confier aux malades en voie de guérison les responsabilités qui incombent, dans la collectivité, aux citoyens. Pendant certaines périodes, la plupart des malades ont besoin également de solitude et d’activité personnelle. C’est un aspect très important de l’habileté clinique du psychiâtre que de savoir discerner le type d’activité dont les malades ont besoin à mesure que progresse le traitement et d’accorder à chacun les facilités et les encouragements nécessaires. Dans cette perspective thérapeutique, il est évident que l’on doit consacrer à ces activités communes une place plus importante que celle qui est prévue dans la plupart des hôpitaux psychiâtriques. Il est également évident que, pendant la plus grande partie de la journée, les malades vivront en dehors de leur dortoir. Si l’on admet, comme on le verra dans la suite de ce rapport, que la principale tâche du personnel infirmier consiste à encourager les activités ci-dessus décrites, les infirmiers ne pourront pas consacrer beaucoup de leur temps à des travaux domestiques dans les locaux réservés aux malades.
Organisation mondiale de la Santé (extrait du troisième rapport du Comité d’experts de la santé mentale)
[Deuxième colonne]
Le 9 mars 1954
Le temps est bien beau quoiqu’il y ait beaucoup de vent, mais le temps paraît moins triste car il fait une belle journée. Dimanche j’espère qu’il fera beau encore. Je vais bien et j’espère que ma santé reviendra comme avant, surtout avec le beau temps.
Je remercie les Docteurs des bons soins ainsi que toutes les infirmières.
C. G.
Le 10 mars 1954
Hier, nous sommes allées à la bibliothèque choisir quelques livres. De là, nous sommes rentrées goûter, tout en préparant notre pièce de théâtre qui aura lieu le 18 de ce mois-ci. Nous apprenons également quelques chants. Je n’oublierai jamais les bons soins que j’ai reçu à CONSTANTINE. Je me sens complètement rétablie. En ce moment, je remercie bien vivement les deux Docteurs qui m’ont soignée. J’espère rentrer chez moi dans un délai proche, revoir ma fillette qui me tourmente l’esprit car il faut reconnaître qu’elle est extrêmement jeune et qu’elle a encore besoin de sa mère que paraît-il elle réclame chaque jour. Sa mémé se fait âgée et a déjà rempli ses devoirs. J’espère des jours meilleurs car tout le monde a droit au bonheur.
R. F.
Ma chère maman,
Je suis très contente, je vais mieux, le docteur me soigne bien. Je voudrais avoir des nouvelles de mon fils. Maman, si tu pouvais venir me voir, je te dirais qu’à DE CLERAMBAULT on fait des fêtes pour distraire nos compagnes, je monte sur la scène, je chante des chansons. Je te quitte pour aujourd’hui. Je vous embrasse bien fort maman chérie toi et mon fils. Je remercie le Docteur pour ses bons soins.
L. M.

Translation

Notre Journal
PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL OF BLIDA [source typo]-JOINVILLE
No. 13
18 MARCH 1954
Monthly subscription: 40 Francs
Price per issue 10 F
WEEKLY IN-HOUSE JOURNAL OF THE CLERAMBAULT WARD
Published on Thursdays
This journal must not leave the hospital
[First column]
During the first stages of treatment of a patient, taking on activities can depend on the authority of the nurse or some other member of the hospital staff, but as treatment progresses, responsibility for the creation and pursuit of an activity must be handed over to the patients themselves. This is also true for other aspects of hospital life. If a psychiatric hospital wants to be a therapeutic community, it must gradually give patients who are on the way to being cured the same responsibilities that are due from citizens within a collective. At certain times, most sick people also need solitude and personal activities. It is a very important aspect of a psychiatrist’s clinical skill to know how to discern the type of activity patients need as their treatment progresses, and to provide each one of them with the necessary aptitude and encouragement. From this treatment perspective, it is clear that a more important place must be devoted to these shared activities than is foreseen in most psychiatric hospitals. It is equally clear that for most of the day, patients will live outside their dormitory. Even if we admit, as we will later in this report, that the principal task of nursing staff is to encourage the activities described above, nurses cannot dedicate very much of their time to domestic work in the places reserved for patients.
(World Health Organisation, Extract from the third report of the Expert Committee on Mental Health).
[Second column]
9 March 1954
The weather is very good, even though there is a lot of wind, but the time seems less sad because it’s a nice day. I hope it will be nice again on Sunday. I’m doing well, and I hope my health will return to what it was before, above all with the good weather.
I thank the doctors for their good care, and all the nurses
C. G.
10 March 1954
Yesterday, we went to the library to choose some books. After that, we returned to eat, while we prepared our play, which will be performed on the 18th of this month. We also learned some songs. I’ll never forget the good care I’ve received from CONSTANTINE. I feel completely recovered. At this time, I would like to thank the doctors who looked after me very much. I hope to return home soon and see my young daughter, which torments me, because we must recognise the fact that that she’s extremely young and still need her mother, whom she apparently asks for every day. Her granny is getting old and has already done her duty. I’m hoping for better days because everyone has the right to be happy.
R. F.
My dear mother,
I’m very happy. Things are going better and the doctor is looking after me well. I’d like to have some news about my son. If you can come and see me, mother, I’ll tell you that at DE CLERAMBAULT we have parties to amuse our companions. I get on stage and sing some songs. I’m going to leave you for today. I give you a big hug, my dear mother, for you and my son. I thank the doctor for his good care.
L. M.

  • 21 Frantz Fanon, “Relations des malades avec l’extérieur” [Patients’ relationship with the outside wo (...)

25The journal’s therapeutic function was not limited to patients being involved in publishing it. The encouragement to read and write it was intended to generate was presented as an additional healing tool. “The patients’ place in society and their families must be maintained. This is why they need social skills: writing, receiving news, and telling stories is one of the most important social activities,” wrote Dr Fanon in his 27 May 1954 editorial.21 The reference to pedagogy and school magazines that was often made by promoters of collective psychotherapy (Benoiston 1952*) was in no way incidental: just as a gazette assists with children’s education, the in-house weekly magazine had to enable patients to “relearn” to read and write regularly. Moreover, by authorising the expression of critical opinions, the journal was seen as a way of giving patients back their dignity, like the thoughts expressed by reformist psychiatrists on the dehumanisation caused by a lack of personal space or on wearing hospital uniforms. At the HPB, as at Saint-Alban, the journal was not simply conceived to give visibility to the patients’ accomplishments: it was also “an in-house spokesperson” (Tosquelles 2015, 21), in which the “right of expression was also a right to recriminate, make demands and express indignation” (Von Bueltzingsloewen 2001, 29).

  • 22 Doctor Boulanger, “Éditorial” (Notre Journal, no. 37, year 2, 1 September 1955).
  • 23 Zohra A., “Quatrième division. Témoignage de Madame A.” [Fourth Ward. Statement by Mrs A.] (Notre (...)

26Did the patients also seize on the latitude that was theoretically being offered to them to make the journal a real “book of grievances”? Like Georges Daumézon (1912–1979) and his colleagues, who initially complained of the “underlying mediocrity” of L’Écho des Bruyères, the weekly in-house magazine of Fleury-les-Aubrais Hospital (Daumézon et al. 1948*, 205), Doctor Fanon’s team soon complained that they were only reading “short items written by patients announcing in a couple of lines that they were doing well and hoped to leave soon.”22 The medical team’s repeated encouragement to “aim higher” by sharing suggestions, opinions and dissatisfactions did not go completely unheeded. Some patients used the space offered by the weekly magazine to make more sophisticated comments and opinions. At the end of November 1954, Zohra A. wrote about the way her activities in the hospital fed a desire for freedom: “I also appreciate this active life that we women Muslims are not allowed to live at all outside our own homes.”23 Three years later, Mr C. criticised the widespread use of neuroleptics, which together with the so-called “shock” treatments (insulin, cardiazol and electric shocks) were considered to be crucial elements of the transformation of psychiatric hospitals (Guillemain 2020). He wittily proposed that the nursing staff extend the distribution to the stray dogs that gathered near the HPB:

“Our kind nurses take pleasure in giving our sick colleagues forced doses of Largactil (in all its different forms), which calms them down very effectively and very quickly. [...] Alas! Near a ward there is a pound where all the stray dogs in Algeria, and even North Africa, are collected. Although they might be calm during the day, [...], it’s not the same at night [...]. Wouldn’t it be possible to give these brave creatures either lessons on music theory (during the day, of course) or know-how, or more simply yet, and with an assured result, Largactil tablets [...], which are so dear to our nurses and have so much success with us?”
(Mr C., “Service Ouvert Hommes” [Men’s Open Service], Notre Journal, no. 24, year 4, 4 July 1957)

27Although it is likely that this wish was never fulfilled, the medical and nursing team at the HPB nevertheless regularly took patients’ demands seriously, which was the opposite of the attitude that patients’ words were “disputable in principle” (Majerus 2011, 103). At the patients’ request, the Mufti of Blida agreed to deliver a sermon at the HPB every Friday from two to four in the afternoon, although he initially limited them to two Thursdays a month. At the end of 1956, the cinema committee decided to follow up on the requests made in the weekly by several Algerian patients to show Egyptian films in Arabic. By giving the patients an additional capacity for action, the “culture of contestation” that was encouraged in Notre Journal finally persuaded them to position themselves as militants who “alongside the doctors and nurses, [were] resolutely involved in the collective struggle to improve their conditions” (Von Bueltzingsloewen 2001, 29–30).

A “limping” journal that is “boring to read”?

  • 24 Doctor Colmin, “Éditorial” (Notre Journal, no. 34, year 3, 16 August 1956).
  • 25 Mrs R., “Cinquième division Femmes” [Women’s ward, fifth ward] (Notre Journal, no 13, year 1, 18 M (...)

28The expression and consideration of these perceptions and requests did nothing to prevent Doctor Colmin, who passed through the HPB in the summer of 1956, from repeating the observation that the journal was “boring to read.”24 The majority of the articles in the weekly journal still briefly thanked doctors and nurses, and described in a few lines one party or outing or another, or commented on changes in the weather. Where the medical staff saw monotony or a failure to bring the reformist ambitions that had been established to fruition, a historian notes the continuity of everyday life at the hospital. Despite the changes that were being begun at the HPB, boredom remained an essential part of life between the walls of the psychiatric institution, and the hope that they would be able to leave soon was a constant concern for most patients. “I hope to return home soon and see my young daughter, which torments me, because we must recognise the fact that she’s extremely young and still need her mother, whom she apparently asks for every day,”25 patient R. F. confided at the beginning of 1954 (Figure 3). Her statement bears witness to the emotional impact of being separated from loved ones after being hospitalised.

  • 26 Frantz Fanon, “Pour un Journal vivant” (Notre Journal, no. 35, year 1, 19 August 1954).

29The problem with moving away from relatively stereotyped written work can also be understood in terms of the social make-up of the people admitted at the HPB: the vast majority of the patients were working class, and talking about themselves and expressing their impressions publicly “exposed them to a suspicion that they were being pretentious and wanted to set themselves apart” (Poliak 2002). Nor did supervision of what the patients were writing by the doctor/editor-in-chief encourage loquaciousness. Not everything was welcome on the journal’s pages: “The journal’s mission is not to make the unreal or outdated fantasies of one patient or another public,”26 Doctor Fanon wrote forcefully in August 1954. Criticism was undoubtedly allowed and encouraged, on the condition that it was “intended” [sic] and understandable. Although delusional statements regularly appeared in medical notes or letters kept in patient files (Guignard and Guillemain 2016), they had no place in Notre Journal.

30The difficulties encountered when it came to backing up the content of the articles echo the problems associated with the diversification of the male and female contributors. In the summer of 1956, the intern Alice Cherki bemoaned the fact that the steps towards emancipation to which Notre Journal contributed struggled to involve all the patients:

“It is true that I have been unable not to notice that there is not full-scale collaboration, and that it has also always been true that a society moves forward more effectively if all its members participate in it. It is also perfectly apparent that if the H.P. Blidéenne society is still 'limping,' it is because it does not have the support of all its members.”
(Alice Cherki, “Éditorial,” Notre Journal, no. 36, year 3, 30 August 1956.)

  • 27 European men were responsible for 12% of the articles, while 18% of the patients in 1953 were Euro (...)
  • 28 On the eve of the Second World War, less than 5% of Algerian girls between the ages of 6 and 15 we (...)

31The gaps in contributions noted between one category of patients and another fully confirms what the young woman observed. The level of participation by Algerian and European men was relatively consistent with their respective proportions in the hospital: the former, who represented 39% of its patients, were involved in 45% of the articles written in 1956.27 On the other hand, there were very marked disproportions in the case of the female categories. European female patients, who made up a little more than a quarter of the hospital’s population, provided over a third of the weekly magazine’s articles, whereas the Algerian women only wrote 7% of them, while they made up 15% of the patients. These gaps reveal the problem socialtherapy encountered with overcoming the inequalities observed from the time the journal was created. The Algerian women were the most affected by illiteracy,28 which was a considerable hindrance to participating in the in-house journal. Although the considerable level of participation by Algerian male patients was a success from this point of view, the fact that the same signatures continued to appear in the pages of the journal nuances the extent of their involvement. These disparities were also a consequence of the way the patients were divided into wards: the majority of the Algerian men were in the departments run by Doctors Fanon and Lacaton, while most of the Algerian women were in Doctor Dequeker’s unit, which was far less involved in the reform. Ultimately, in the case of both content and contributors, the magazine was a selective therapeutic resource.

A professional magazine aimed at a “nursing elite”

Thanks to [their] theoretical and practical studies, the nurses have acquired greater technical efficiency: They make up a real body of specialists in the treatment of mental illnesses, and they have become a precious tool, indispensable assistants for psychiatrists.
(Jacques Azoulay, “Éditorial,” Notre Journal, no. 36, year 2, 16 June 1955)

32When he celebrated the graduation of first group of nurses from the specialised training course that had been established at the HPB a year and a half earlier in his editorial of 16 June 1955, Jacques Azoulay recalled that Notre Journal had been a full participant in the professionalisation process that had been under way in the hospital since the 1930s (Fanon 2018, 277). However, just as the magazine struggled to involve the various categories of hospitalised patients indiscriminately, the relational and treatment concepts of care promoted in the hospital only applied to the best-qualified segment of the medical staff.

“Living and being amongst the patients”: promoting a new professional ethic

  • 29 Circular no. 275 (Health) of 30 November 1949 on the professional training of medical staff of psy (...)

33To complement the transformations in the areas of working conditions, recruitment and staff training that had been under way since the HPB first opened (Marquis 2021, 373–99), the in-house journal was intended to contribute to the learning of new skills and know-how. Just as the use of so-called shock therapies meant having to master specific technical skills (Von Bueltzingsloewen 2009), the implementation of collective psychotherapy practices meant that the nurses involved needed “more and more extensive knowledge and an essential expansion of the concept of the role given [them].”29 The recommendations of the World Health Organisation and the extracts from the Psychiatrie pratique manual by Paul Bernard (1909–1995) (Bernard 1947) that were regularly published at the beginning of Notre Journal highlight the responsibilities associated with the role of nurse-instructors, whose duty was to supervise the activities proposed to the hospital’s patients. The reproduction of the words of the psychiatrist Louis Le Guillant (1900–1968) in several consecutive issues also encouraged the members of the medical staff to take part in the two advanced training courses organised at the HPB in March 1956 and at the beginning of 1960 by the Association des centres d’entraînement aux méthodes d’éducation active (CEMEA):

“Not only will the course raise nurses’ awareness of the various aspects of the collective life lived by their patients and teach them about it, but it will also introduce them to new human relationships.”
(Louis Le Guillant, untitled, Notre Journal, no. 10, year 3, 15 March 1956)

34The numerous articles in Notre Journal intended for the nursing staff bear witness to the prominent place supporters of socialtherapy gave to the relational dimension of care. Just like the editorial in issue 6, which was written by a nurse at the psychiatric hospital of Saint-Alban and first published in the journal Esprit, these articles consistently stressed the need for the way patients were viewed and interactions with them to be developed:

“In a world of sick people in which everyone lives isolated in their own individuality, nurses must seek to become the channel through which social ties come together [...]. It is not a question of acting like a nurse; it is a question of living and being among the patients, collaborating with their nascent society and orienting them without stifling them.”
(M. Bonnet, “Asile ou hôpital,” Notre Journal, no. 6, year 1, 28 January 1954)

  • 30 Frantz Fanon, “Éditorial” (Notre Journal, no. 15, year 1, 1 April 1954).
  • 31 Frantz Fanon, “Éditorial” (Notre Journal, no. 18, year 1, 22 April 1954).

35The regular use of the word “resident” rather than “patient” in the journal’s articles and the emphasis on the need to call female patients by their married names rather than their maiden names30 reveal a similar approach. The in-house weekly also advocated limiting the practices of restraint and isolation for disciplinary reasons, the embodiment of the lack of understanding on the part of some nurses, who were attached to the “power of the key” (Majerus 2013, 110). By denouncing the transformation of medical decisions into “police-like bans,”31 Notre Journal played a full part in the process of redefining a professional nursing ethic in which “punitive routines” (Génard and Rossigneux-Méheust 2023) theoretically no longer had any place.

A weekly magazine with a limited scope?

  • 32 Frantz Fanon, “Éditorial” (Notre Journal, no. 13, year 3, 28 March 1956).

36At the time socialtherapy was becoming established in Algeria, a segment of the reform’s promoters was already expressing a kind of disillusionment with the project: in their view, institutionalising it and structuring it on a large scale cost it some of its potential to transform and innovate. Doctor Fanon was aware of the reservations some of his colleagues were expressing and wasted no time in using Notre Journal to warn against the risks of “routinisation”: “There is no doubt that one of the difficulties one comes across in the exercise of a profession is habit. [...] In a hospital like ours, we need to make a major effort to avoid making things automatic; the days must not seem like days, and the hours must not seem like hours,”32 warned the head doctor at the beginning of the 28 March 1956 issue. The need not to indulge in smug self-celebration and not to treat the ongoing transformations as if they had been completed was regularly recalled in the pages of the journal. After all, were the parties regularly organised in the hospital not planned more for than by the residents? Was a nurse-coach who scored most of the goals in a football match with the patients still acting as a therapist? Did the issues of Notre Journal inspire a sufficient level of interest among the nursing staff when some of the copies reserved for them were still waiting in the head doctor’s office?

37This last line of questioning is a reflection on the actual scope of the in-house weekly. The professionalisation process that was under way on both sides of the Mediterranean Sea accentuated the specialisation and hierarchisation of care work (Chevandier 2011). Here, the treatment concepts advocated in the journal were primarily aimed at a “nursing elite” (Thifault and Desmeules 2012) that although it was in the course of being “Algerianised” was still principally European. For their part, the “caregiving proletariat” (Diebolt and Fouché 2011, 237), most of whom were Algerian, were still restricted to menial tasks like hygiene and watching the patients that to some extent fell outside the new professional rules that were being promoted in Notre Journal. The repetition of the claims made by nurses in the weekly magazine also bears witness to the problem of obtaining satisfaction from the hospital administration, which was mainly concerned with limiting budget costs. The lack of staff, the health problems associated with difficulties with obtaining water and the absence of a party room were some of the dysfunctions that were regularly reported in the column reserved for the staff, before the tensions associated with the War of Independence put a strain on the stability and existence of the journal.

The last bastion of an inter-community utopia

“Happily, experience teaches us that over a longer or shorter period of time, a healthy, constructive practice finds a place and makes its way [...] Because we know how to recognise the imperfect reality, we become easily receptive and able to progress in harmony towards completion, which is the only thing that is impossible.”
(Raymond Lacaton, “Éditorial,” Notre Journal, no. 15, year 3, 5 April 1956)

38The editorial by Doctor Lacaton at the beginning of the spring of 1956 invokes the utopian dimension of socialtherapy, which was inherent in the project itself: at the HPB, as in Metropolitan France, collective psychotherapy remained “like a horizon in wait rather than a world that was already there” (Henckès 2007, 220). In a colonial context of war that was profoundly divisive and discriminatory, breaking down the barriers and intercommunity values encouraged by Doctor Fanon’s team was a radical, alternative society project that Notre Journal struggled to uphold over time.

Promoting “the interpenetration of civilisation and cultures”

  • 33 M. Dussauge, “Inauguration du café maure” (Notre Journal, no. 28, year 1, 1 July1954); [Anonymous] (...)

39There is a second principle that must be grafted on to the logic of responsibilisation that presides over the implementation of every social-therapeutic activity: putting patients (back) into contact with the outside world, at all times from the standpoint of accelerating their social rehabilitation. When they are organised from this perspective, the arrival of storytellers, singers and orchestras—in some cases particularly well-known ones—and the outings to the Algiers trade fair or the beaches of Zeralda or Tipaza were enthusiastically welcomed by the patients in the columns of Notre Journal. It also never failed to emphasise the need to re-introduce the spaces and practices that punctuated the daily lives of patients outside the hospital. The opening of a Moorish café, which is an essential social space for men in Algeria (Carlier 2014), at the beginning of the summer of 1954, followed by the inauguration of an “oriental tea room” six months later for the Algerian women were reported by the in-house journal.33 By indicating the dates and hours of the services promised by an abbot and the mufti of Blida, the journal also contributed to restoring all the importance religious worship in the collective lives of the patients, whereas the chapel and mosque that had been built at the HPB had been systematically diverted from their original uses because of the lack of available space.

40None of these measures were only intended for the sector of the population for whom they were earmarked. They were part of an inter-community logic that was offered in all its various forms: the editorials in Notre Journal regularly reminded readers of the need to simplify contacts among doctors, nursing staff and patients as well as between “Algerians” and “Europeans.” The column by Georges Counillon, an intern, at the beginning of issue no. 52 was especially explicit on this aspect:

“The various committees, the journal and the celebrations are all ways for everyone to find out about other people’s lives [...]. However, one of the most striking areas of progress we see is the interpenetration of the European and Muslim cultures. The ‘popularisation’ of ritual celebrations [...] [makes it possible] for the Europeans to discover the Muslim world, which they did not know about, or knew little about, and to reveal certain aspects of European culture to Muslims that they were unaware of [...]. With regard to this interpenetration of civilisations and cultures, the psychiatric hospital is at the forefront of progress, even ahead of the outside world, where a ridiculous level of compartmentalisation persists.”
(Georges Counillon, “Éditorial,” Notre Journal, no. 52, year 1, 16 December 1954)

  • 34 Georges Counillon, Charles Geronimi and Meyer Timsit are some of them. Alice Cherki revealed that (...)

41The brief notes that explained the meaning and symbolism of the festivities organised at the hospital to celebrate Easter, Christmas, Aïd el-Kebir and Ashura were designed along these lines. Expressing an ambition such as this in the context of the Algerian War of Independence was no trivial matter, and the approach reflected the highly political scope of collective psychotherapy at the HPB, which was an extension of the anti-racist beliefs expressed by Dr Fanon before he arrived in Algeria (Boucaud-Victoire 2023) and the militant commitment of several interns to the Algerian communist party.34 By adapting the techniques and practices of collective psychotherapy to the Algerian context, Doctor Fanon and his interns contributed to the “decolonisation” of the psychiatric hospital (Robcis 2020).

A journal “in danger of dying” in a hospital at war

42The inter-community approach Doctor Fanon and his interns encouraged took on a special meaning in a colonial wartime situation, but it ran into a series of obstacles associated with this same context. Even though a significant number of the HPB’s patients only spoke Arabic or Kabyle, or more rarely Spanish or Italian, it seems that the issue of writing or translating articles in a language other than French was never envisaged: only the name of the journal was translated into Arabic (Figure 4). The dynamic of a dialogue among communities and the “reduction of conflicts in the community” (Daumézon et al. 1948*, 208) revealed itself to be more and more difficult to keep up, because the tensions between supporters of independence and those who wanted to keep Algeria French were constantly increasing in the hospital. The fact that the issues published in 1958 and 1959 have not been preserved makes it impossible to calculate the extent to which the conflict expanded into the pages of Notre Journal. Nonetheless, there are several indications that they bore witness to the shadow cast by the war over the inter-community portrait promoted by the supporters of the social therapeutic project, starting with the issues raised at the end of May 1956 by a group of patients in the Lépine ward on the subject of the presence of a sketch of a mosque in the banner of the journal (Figure 4). The editorial signed by all the psychiatrists in response to this took the form of a gesture of appeasement, and recalled the collective foundations of the reform:

“During the summer of 1954, a decision was taken to improve the somewhat mundane heading of ‘Notre Journal’ by adding a drawing with a local character. Several projects were created and studied, and the reproduction of the mosque was accepted not as a symbol of the Muslim religion, but as a typically Algerian architectural monument. [...] Having said this, there is clearly no reason for one party or another to create a controversy around the Journal—it must be stressed above all else that we need to avoid any opportunity for conflict or division.”
(Les médecins-chefs de service [The Heads of Department], “Éditorial,” Notre Journal, no. 27, year 3, 28 June 1956)

Figure 4. Banner of Notre Journal, no. 23, 31 May 1956, p. 1

Figure 4. Banner of Notre Journal, no. 23, 31 May 1956, p. 1

Photograph: Paul Marquis.
Source: Archives of Frantz Fanon psychiatric Hospital, Blida.

43It is possible that the event helped raise Doctor Fanon’s awareness: the War of Independence gradually turned him into a “revolutionary militant” (Macey, 2013, 255), and it was now clear to him that the project he had envisaged for the HPB was fundamentally incompatible with the colonial context. In the summer of 1956, he sent the governor-general of Algeria a resignation letter in which he explicitly rebelled against the discriminatory policies being practised in Algeria:

“Although the objective conditions of psychiatry in Algeria were already a challenge to good sense, it seemed to me that efforts needed to be made to turn a system whose underlying doctrines are in daily conflict with an authentic human perspective into something less unsound. For nearly three years, I have placed myself fully at the service of this country and the people who live in it. [...] There has not been a single element of my actions that has not made the universally wished-for emergence of a valid world a necessary objective. But what enthusiasm and interest can a man have if the reality is stained on a daily basis with lies, cowardice and contempt for human beings? [...] The ridiculous thing was to want to bring certain values into existence whatever the cost, when lawlessness, inequality and multiple everyday killings became a legal principle.”
(Letter from Frantz Fanon to the resident minister, governor-general of Algeria, July 1956. ANOM 9170-3F2).

  • 35 The interns of the HPB, “Éditorial” (Notre Journal, nos. 39 & 40, year 3, 27 September 1956).
  • 36 Mr D., “Éditorial” (Notre Journal, no. 34, year 4, 14 November 1957).

44Following this letter, Doctor Fanon was banned from living in Algeria, and he left the country in January 1957. His revolutionary commitment to the National Liberation Front in Tunisia made what he had secretly put into effect at the HPB official (Macey 2013). His departure was marked by a number of testimonials in the pages of the journal, and he was followed by several other members of the medical team who were heavily invested in the movement: Georges Counillon had joined the maquis des Aurès a few months earlier (Galissot 2014), and the HPB also recorded the departure of Doctor Lacaton in 1957, and of the intern Alice Cherki the year after. Although this succession of departures did not bring the reform to an end, they made the pursuit of social therapeutic activities more fragile, starting with publication of the weekly journal. At the end of September 1956, the repeated shortage of contributors had already led the hospital interns to warn against the “danger of death”35 afflicting Notre Journal. Publication was interrupted from 18 July 1957; it was issued again, but not without difficulty, at the end of September: “Since Notre Journal began to be published again, we can count the editorials written by heads of department and supervisors... We can count the number of times they attend committees, and let us not talk about the wards. The first ward has never written even the shortest article. The third ward has been absent for two weeks. No one ever talks about Clérambault any more,”36 complained the secretary-general of the journal committee. Compared with about 50 issues a year, the journal had been published ten fewer times at the end of 1957.

45Although the fact that copies from 1958–59 are missing from the archives makes it impossible to observe with precision how Notre Journal’s trajectory continued, the last issue that has been retained confirms Doctor Fanon’s admission of powerlessness at the time he left the hospital a year and a half earlier. An article entitled “On the relations among the wards” seems to endorse the abandonment of the inter-community utopia brought about by socialtherapy:

“It has been found [...] that any attempt to act at an inter-ward level is not only not desirable but also brings with it a number of insurmountable challenges. [...] The HPB is a hospital where European and Muslim residence live side by side. There is no doubt that at least as far as leisure and entertainment are concerned, it is not possible to reconcile such divergent concepts.”
(E. Benbadis, “Des relations entre divisions” [On the relations among wards], Notre Journal, no. 9, year 6, 19 August 1959).

  • 37 Doctor Lotiron, “À propos de la “censure’” (Notre Journal, no. 9, year 6, 19 August 1959).

46An editorial signed by Doctor Lotiron concurred that it was difficult to maintain a spirit of collaboration in a wartime context. Although he declined to use censorship, he justified the refusal to print a number of articles on the basis that their “very lively aggressiveness” and “caustic style” had the sole objective of creating “sterile and vengeful controversies.”37 Was the 19 August 1959 issue the last to be printed? There is nothing that makes it possible to confirm or reject this. Whatever the case may be, the contents of the last journal in the archives reads like an admission that it was not possible to overturn the social, cultural and racial divisions that crossed through the colonial psychiatric hospital, and all of Algerian society in general.

Conclusion

47By moving the focus away from Dr Fanon and towards Notre Journal, this article does not minimise the influence of the Martinican psychiatrist over the trajectory of collective psychotherapy in Algeria in any way. A study of the hundred or so articles scattered across the pages of the in-house weekly journal over the course of its six year life confirms the dominant role played by the head doctor of the fifth medical ward in the rise, institutionalisation and visibility of socialtherapy at the HPB. The articles and positions he regularly published at the beginning of the journal set the tone for a reform of which he was the coordinator. Nonetheless, an examination of the contents of the journal make it possible to attribute to the project what it was that constituted its essence: its collective dimension. A review of Notre Journal reveals the way the interns and the nursing staff under his command appropriated and disseminated Dr Fanon’s principles and put them into practice on a daily basis. This article also recalls the fact that the trajectory of socialtherapy was not based on that of the anti-colonialist psychiatrist: the early stages of collective psychotherapy preceded his arrival in Algeria, and the reform survived his departure, despite the problems that were faced.

48By making the in-house weekly journal its subject-matter and principal source, this investigation has assessed the role played by Notre Journal in transforming psychiatric practices at the HPB. Alongside team meetings, the journal was undoubtedly one of the principal means by which the alternative paradigm proposed by Dr Fanon was publicised. Aside from the fact that it contributed towards the change in the level of a dynamic that gradually expanded to virtually the entire hospital, the journal was used as a tool for professionalising a rapidly-changing nursing staff. It also offered the HPB’s patients an unprecedented forum: even though the only margins for manoeuvre and negotiation available to them were essentially individual approaches, the journal gave the patients a collective voice for putting their demands and complaints forward. In terms of the pace of implementation and levels of involvement, however, Notre Journal reveals a “variable geometry” of reform. Depending on their beliefs, their resources or their personal situations, the doctors, interns, nurses and patients used the project begun by Dr Fanon in different ways.

49Although it offers a more complex portrait of socialtherapy in Algeria, this article ultimately invites the reader not to overestimate the uniqueness of the reformist enterprise carried out under the aegis of Frantz Fanon. A qualitative and quantitative analysis of Notre Journal reminds us that the process begun at the HPB was inspired by previous experiences in Metropolitan France: as far as the rhetoric, the protocol and the techniques used in the pages of the journal are concerned, there was a great deal of circulation, and numerous aspects were borrowed. The singular nature of the overseas experience lay principally in the interest shown in the local culture and beliefs, which gave rise to an inter-community paradigm that was believed to be the only way “of avoiding [...]assimilationism disguised as universalism” (Bessone 2016). Nonetheless, the evolution of the in-house journal bore witness to the problem involved in making this “vision of a possible” (Henckès 2007, 220) happen in the context of a colonial Algeria at war. While illiteracy and the differences in social status limited access to the reform by Algerian patients and nurses, the journal endured the greatest amount of difficulty in maintaining its status as a safeguarding the face of political and military tensions, which are very likely to have had an influence on its disappearance. The delegation sent by the World Health Organisation at the end of the 1960s was an expression of a desire to give scope and structure back to the social therapeutic approach that had been begun fifteen years earlier (Bernard 1969*), but Notre Journal would never see the light of day again after Algerian independence.

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Génard, Elsa, and Mathilde Rossigneux-Méheust, dir. 2023. Routines punitives. Les sanctions du quotidien (xixe-xxe siècles). Paris: CNRS Éditions.

Gibson, Nigel, and Roberto Beneduce. 2017. Frantz Fanon: Psychiatry and Politics. London: Rowan and Littlefield International.

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Henckès, Nicolas. 2007. “Le nouveau monde de la psychiatrie française. Les psychiatres, l’État, et la réforme des hôpitaux de l’après-guerre aux années 1970.” PhD Dissertation in Sociology. Paris: École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS).
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Postel, Jacques, and Claudine Razanajao. 2007. “La vie et l’œuvre psychiatrique de Frantz Fanon.” Sud/Nord, no. 22: 147–74.
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.

Robcis, Camille. 2020. “Frantz Fanon, Institutional Psychotherapy, and the Decolonization of Psychiatry.” Journal of the History of Ideas 81, no. 2: 303–25.
https://doi.org/10.1353/jhi.2020.0009
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Robcis, Camille. 2021. Disalienation. Politics, Philosophy, and Radical Psychiatry in Postwar France. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.

Seferdjeli, Ryme. 2014. “La politique coloniale à l’égard des femmes ‘musulmanes.’” In Histoire de l’Algérie à la période coloniale (1830-1962), edited by Abderrhamane Bouchène et alii, 359–63. Paris: La Découverte.
https://doi.org/10.3917/dec.bouch.2013.01.0359
.

Thifault, Marie-Claude, and Martin Desmeules. 2012. “Du traitement moral à l’occupation thérapeutique. Le rôle inusité de l’infirmière psychiatrique à l’Hôpital Saint-Jean-de-Dieu : 1912-1962.” In L’incontournable caste des femmes. Histoire des services de santé au Québec et au Canada, edited by Marie-Claude Thifault, 229–50. Ottawa: Les Presses de l’Université d’Ottawa.
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Tosquelles, François. 2015. Trait-d’union. Journal de Saint-Alban. Éditoriaux, articles, notes (1950-1962). Paris: Éditions d’une.

Tosquelles, François. 2021. Soigner les institutions. Paris: L’Arachnéen.

Von Bueltzingsloewen, Isabelle. 2001. “Révolution au quotidien, révolution du quotidien : les transformations de la pratique psychiatrique à l’hôpital du Vinatier dans les années cinquante.” In Questions à la ‘révolution psychiatrique’, edited by Isabelle Von Bueltzingsloewen and Olivier Faure, 19–32. Lyon: Éditions La Ferme du Vinatier.

Von Bueltzingsloewen, Isabelle. 2009. L’Hécatombe des fous. La famine dans les hôpitaux psychiatriques français sous l’Occupation. Deuxième édition. Paris: Flammarion.

Von Bueltzingsloewen, Isabelle. 2010. “Le militantisme en psychiatrie de la Libération à nos jours. Quelle histoire ?!” Sud/Nord, no. 25: 13–26.
https://doi.org/10.3917/sn.025.0013
.

Cited articles from Notre Journal (in chronological order)

1953

Fanon, Frantz. 24 December 1953. “Mémoire et journal.” Notre Journal, no. 1, year 1.

1954

Bonnet, M. 28 January 1954. “Asile ou hôpital.” Notre Journal, no. 6, year 1.

Organisation Mondiale de la Santé. 18 March 1954. “Extrait du 3ème rapport du Comité d’experts de la santé mentale .” Notre Journal, no. 13, year 1.

R., Madame. 18 March 1954. “Cinquième division Femmes.” Notre Journal, no. 13, year 1.

Fanon, Frantz. 1st April 1954. “Éditorial.” Notre Journal, no. 15, year 1.

Fanon, Frantz. 22 April 1954. “Éditorial.” Notre Journal, no. 18, year 1

Fanon, Frantz. 27 May 1954. “Relations des malades avec l’extérieur.” Notre Journal, no. 23, year 1.

Dussauge, M. 1st July 1954. “Inauguration du café maure.” Notre Journal, no. 28, year 1.

Fanon, Frantz. 19 August 1954. “Pour un Journal Vivant.” Notre Journal, no. 35, year 1.

Dequeker, Jean, et al. 14 October 1954. “Éditorial.” Notre Journal, no. 43, year 1.

Cohen, M. 21 October 1954. “Un petit Parlement.” Notre Journal, no. 44, year 1.

A., Zohra. 25 November 1954. “Quatrième division. Témoignage de Madame A.” Notre Journal, no. 49, year 1.

Counillon, Georges. 16 December 1954. “Éditorial.” Notre Journal, no. 52, year 1.

1955

Anonyme. 24 March 1955. “Quatrième division.” Notre Journal, no. 14, year 2.

Beley, Docteur. 26 May 1955. Cité dans “Éditorial.” Notre Journal, no. 23, year 2.

Azoulay, Jacques. 16 June 1955. “Éditorial.” Notre Journal, no. 36, year 2.

Boulanger, Docteur. 1st September 1955. “Éditorial.” Notre Journal, numéro 37, year 2.

Sanchez, François. 15 September 1955. “Éditorial.” Notre Journal, no. 39, year 2.

Domenech, S. 8 December 1955. Sans titre. Notre Journal, no. 51, year 2.

Ramée, Frédéric. 8 December 1955. “Éditorial.” Notre Journal, no. 51, year 2.

Lacaton, Raymond. 29 December 1955. “Meilleurs vœux et bon anniversaire à ‘Notre Journal’.” Notre Journal, no. 1, year 3.

1956

Le Guillant, Louis. 15 March 1956. Sans titre. Notre Journal, no. 10, year 3.

Fanon, Frantz. 28 March 1956. “Éditorial.” Notre Journal, no. 13, year 3.

Lacaton, Raymond. 5 April 1956. “Éditorial.” Notre Journal, no. 15, year 3.

Pavillon Jean Lépine. 31 May 1956. “Première Division.” Notre Journal, no. 23, year 3.

Les médecins-chefs de service. 28 June 1956. “Éditorial.” Notre Journal, no. 27, year 3.

R., Madame. 8 August 1956. “Cinquième division Femmes.” Notre Journal, no. 33, year 3.

Illisible. 9 August 1956. “Éditorial.” Notre Journal, no. 33, year 3.

Colmin, Docteur. 16 August 1956. “Éditorial.” Notre Journal, no. 34, year 3.

Cherki, Alice. 30 August 1956. “Éditorial », Notre Journal, no. 36, year 3.

Les internes de l’HPB. 27 September 1956. “Éditorial.” Notre Journal, no. 39 & 40, year 3.

Le Comité. 15 November 1956. “Comité de lecture.” Notre Journal, no. 47, year 3.

1957

C., Monsieur. 4 July 1957. “Service Ouvert Hommes.” Notre Journal, no. 24, year 4.

D., Monsieur. 14 November 1957. “Éditorial.” Notre Journal, no. 34, year 4.

1959

Benbadis, E. 19 August 1959. “Des relations entre divisions.” Notre Journal, no. 9, year 6.

Lotiron, Docteur. 19 August 1959. “À propos de la ‘censure.’” Notre Journal, no. 9, year 6.

Printed sources and primary additional sources

Azoulay, Jacques. 1954. “Contribution à l’étude de la socialthérapie dans un service d’aliénés musulmans.” Doctoral thesis in medicine. Algiers: Algiers Faculty of Medicine.

Benoiston, Jean. 1952. “Le journal de l’hôpital psychiatrique. L’information comme moyen thérapeutique.” Doctoral thesis in medicine. Paris: Paris Faculty of Medicine.

Bernard, Paul. 1947. Psychiatrie pratique, formation, spécialisation et sélection des auxiliaires médico-sociaux du psychiatre. Paris: Desclée de Brouwer.

Bernard, Paul. 1969. “L’hôpital psychiatrique de Blida de 1961 à 1968.” L’information psychiatrique 8: 823–32.

Budget primitif pour l’année 1960. Wilaya Archives, Algiers, 1V123.

Circular no. 275 (Health) of 30 November 1949 on the professional training of medical staff of psychiatric hospitals. ANOM, 1K-822/2.

Daumézon, Georges et al. 1948. “Le journal de l’hôpital psychiatrique, instrument de psychothérapie collective.” Annales médico-psychologiques 106: 204–10.

Daumézon, Georges. 1955. “La vie collective du malade mental.” In Encyclopédie française. XIV. La civilisation quotidienne, Paul Breton (ed.), 7–13. Paris: Larousse.

Dequeker, Jean et al. 1955. “Aspects actuels de l’assistance mentale en Algérie.” L’information psychiatrique 31, no. 4: 11–18.

Fanon, Frantz, and Jacques Azoulay. 1954. “La socialthérapie dans un service d’hommes musulmans: difficultés méthodologiques.” L’information psychiatrique 9: 349–61. Republished in Fanon, Frantz. 2018. Écrits sur l’aliénation et la liberté. Paris: La Découverte.
https://doi.org/10.3917/dec.fanon.2018.01.0366
.

Fanon, Frantz. 1956. Letter from Frantz Fanon to the governor-general of Algeria, July 1956. ANOM, 9170-3F2.

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Appendix

Annex. Notre Journal no. 1, year 1, 24 December 1953. Page 1. Facsimile, transcription and translation

Facsimile

Notre Journal, no. 13, 18 March 1954, p. 1

Notre Journal, no. 13, 18 March 1954, p. 1

Note on the image: The header of this copy does not correspond to that of the first issue of the in-house weekly magazine . The sketch of the hospital's mosque, the translation of the title into Arabic and the calligraphy of the title were incorporated into the weekly's header at a later date. It is therefore likely that the copy is a montage incorporating the initial content of the issue and a later header.

Photograph: Paul Marquis.
Source: Archives of the Frantz Fanon Psychiatric Hospital, Blida.

Transcription

HOPITAL PSYCHIATRIQUE DE BLIDA-JOINVILLE
NOTRE JOURNAL
Hebdomadaire intérieur
— Paraissant le Jeudi
Le Numéro 10 Frs
Abonnement Mensuel 40 Frs
Ce Journal ne doit pas sortir de l’établissement
Le 24 Decembre 1953
NUMERO 1

MEMOIRE et JOURNAL
Lors de la dernière réunion de pavillon à De CLERAMBAULT, on a décidé de publier un Journal. Aussi s’est-on demandé comment on allait l’appeler, la question fut posée et vraiment personne ne voyait. Pourtant au bout d’un moment, timidement, quelques titres furent proposés. Je me souviens de l’un d’eux : c’est "JOURNAL DE BORD". Je voudrais m’attarder un peu sur ce titre et essayer de montrer l’importance d’un Journal.
Sur un navire, il est banal de dire qu’on est entre ciel et eau; qu’on est coupé du monde; qu’on est seul. Justement, le Journal lutte contre ce laisser-aller possible, cette sorte de solitude. Tous les jours paraît une feuille souvent mal imprimée, sans photos et sans goût.
Mais tous les jours, cette feuille met de la vie sur le bateau. On apprend les nouvelles du bord : distractions, cinéma, concerts, prochaines escales. On apprend aussi bien sûr, les nouvelles de la terre. Le navire bien qu’isolé garde le contact avec l’extérieur, c’est-à-dire avec le monde.
Pourquoi ? Parce que dans deux ou trois jours, les passagers retrouveront leurs parents, leurs amis, leurs maisons.
Remarquez que tout voyageur a un journal. Le touriste envoie à ses amis des cartes ou de longues lettres où il raconte toutes ses émotions. Raconter quelque chose est une discipline très difficile à acquérir mais je me rappelle d’un petit garçon de huit ans qui n’arrivait jamais à raconter le Petit Chaperon Rouge correctement ! Il mettait les parties de l’histoire n’importe comment.
Ecrire est certainement la plus belle découverte: car cela permet à l’homme de se souvenir, d’exposer dans l’ordre ce qui s’est passé et surtout de communiquer avec les autres, même absents.
Docteur FANON.

« Je remercie le Bon Dieu de nous avoir envoyé un Docteur si sympathique, je le compare à un de ces Rois Mages, descendu du ciel pour assister notre fête de NOEL, jour de la naissance de notre Seigneur Jésus. Je souhaite du fond du cœur que cette fête soit pour nous miraculeuse, par la guérison de toutes nos compagnes. »
« D’autre part je veux bien travailler dans les bâtiments pour que Monsieur le Docteur puisse faire en sorte de me renvoyer chez moi. »
Je désire lire « la VIE CATHOLIQUE ou le PELERIN. »
G C.

CONSTATATION
Les longues promenades dans le parc où les convalescents ont la liberté de chanter et de cueillir les herbes et fleurs avec presque pas de surveillance, ont eu le meilleur effet : toutes celles qui y ont pris part, ont dormi toute la nuit avec calme.
16 Décembre 1953
C. N.

Le temps est délicieux et le paysage est beau, il rappelle certains coins montagneux de FRANCE, les promenades quotidiennes sont agréables et nécessaire car le pavillon est bruyant.
L’isolement est dur car je suis bien loin de mes…

Translation

PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL OF BLIDA-JOINVILLE
Notre Journal
Weekly in-house journal
Published on Thursdays
Price per issue 10 F
Monthly subscription: 40 Francs
This journal must not leave the hospital
24 December 1953
ISSUE 1

MEMORANDUM and JOURNAL
During the most recent meeting at De CLERAMBAULT, it was decided to publish a Journal. It was also asked what it would be called, and nobody had an answer. After a while, however, a number of names were timidly proposed. I recall one of them: it was “LOGBOOK.” I would like to dwell on this a little and try to show how important a Journal is.
It is trite to say that on a ship one is between the sky and the water; that one is cut off from the world; that one is alone. Rightly, the Journal struggles against this possible complacency, this kind of solitude. Every day, a bland, often badly-printed sheet appears with no photos.
But every day this sheet brings some life into the ship. We learn about new events on board: entertainment, cinema, concerts and the next port. Of course, we also find out the news from land. Although the ship is isolated, it stays in contact with the outside: that is, with the world.
Why? Because in two or three days, the passengers will be back with their relatives and friends, and back home.
Note that every traveller has a journal. Tourists send their friends postcards or long letters in which they tell of all their emotions. Telling the story of something is a very difficult discipline to acquire, but I remember an eight-year-old boy who never managed to tell the story of Little Red Riding Hood correctly! He put the various parts of the story together any old way.
There is no doubt that writing is the greatest discovery: it enables men to remember, to explain things in the order in which they happened, and above all to communicate with other people, even if they are absent.
Doctor FANON

“I want to thank God for sending us such a nice doctor. The sun is out, these Three Kings who came down from the sky to be at our CHRISTMAS party, the day our Lord Jesus was born. I hope from the bottom of my heart that this party will be a miracle for us and all our companions are cured.”
“On the other hand, I’m happy to work in the buildings so the doctor will send me home.”
“I want to read LA VIE CATHOLIQUE or LE PELERIN.”
G. C.

AN OBSERVATION
The long walks in the park where those who are convalescing saw them singing and picking herbs and flowers with almost no supervision have been unfortunate, and the people who took part slept peacefully all night long.
16 December 1953
C. N.

The weather is delicious and the countryside is beautiful. It recalls mountainous corners of FRANCE. The daily walks are pleasant and a necessity, because the wing is noisy.
Isolation is hard because I’m a long way from my…

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Notes

1 All the texts from the journal reproduced in this article are summarised in chronological order in the subsection of the bibliography entitled “Cited articles from Notre Journal.”

2 Emmanuel Delille (2013) counted almost forty in-house journals between 1945 and 1975.

3 The references marked with an asterisk (*) refer to the list of “Printed sources and primary complementary sources,” a sub-section of the bibliography at the end of this article.

4 The article by Emmanuel Delille (2013) we referred to above is the only one that has specifically studied one of them.

5 Unfortunately, the originals have not yet been rediscovered.

6 The hospital was renamed after the psychiatrist in 1963.

7 They are numbers 9 to 12 from 1954; numbers 3, 5, 7, 9 to 12, 24, 40, 41, 44, 46, 47, 50 and 52 from 1955; numbers 3, 8, 11, 12, 14, and 16 to 20 from 1956; and numbers 4, 8 and 14 from 1957.

8 The first issue from 1958 and the 19 August issue from 1959.

9 Doctors Ramée and Dequeker were appointed to the HPB in 1945 and 1948 respectively.

10 The journal is currently the subject of a study by Coline Fournout as part of her anthropology thesis at McGill University.

11 At the Vinatier Hospital (Rhône), the wing chosen for the first attempts of collective psychotherapy had no “chronic” or “senile” patients because the psychiatrists were afraid they would not be sufficiently receptive to the transformations that were being implemented (Von Bueltzingsloewen 2001).

12 Doctor Beley, cited in the “Éditorial” (Notre Journal, no. 23, year 2, 26 May 1955).

13 “Comité de lecture” [Reading Committee] (Notre Journal, no. 47, year 3, 15 November 1956).

14 Initial budget for 1960. Archives of the Wilaya of Algiers, 1V123.

15 François Sanchez, “Éditorial” (Notre Journal, no. 39, year 2, 15 September 1955).

16 [Illegible author], “Éditorial” (Notre Journal, no. 33, year 3, 9 August 1956). The poor quality of the copy we consulted made it impossible to decipher the name of the author of this text.

17 Frédéric Ramée, “Éditorial” (Notre Journal, no. 51, year 2, 8 December 1955).

18 These 440 articles do not include texts written by doctors and nursing staff or joint articles.

19 We should recall that 10 of the 52 issues from 1956 are missing from the HPB’s archives.

20 The 126 remaining articles came from the male and female open services, which represented alternatives to confinement in the asylum, and did not answer to a specific ward.

21 Frantz Fanon, “Relations des malades avec l’extérieur” [Patients’ relationship with the outside world] (Notre Journal, no. 23, year 1, 27 May 1954).

22 Doctor Boulanger, “Éditorial” (Notre Journal, no. 37, year 2, 1 September 1955).

23 Zohra A., “Quatrième division. Témoignage de Madame A.” [Fourth Ward. Statement by Mrs A.] (Notre Journal, no. 49, year 1, 25 November 1954).

24 Doctor Colmin, “Éditorial” (Notre Journal, no. 34, year 3, 16 August 1956).

25 Mrs R., “Cinquième division Femmes” [Women’s ward, fifth ward] (Notre Journal, no 13, year 1, 18 March 1954).

26 Frantz Fanon, “Pour un Journal vivant” (Notre Journal, no. 35, year 1, 19 August 1954).

27 European men were responsible for 12% of the articles, while 18% of the patients in 1953 were European.

28 On the eve of the Second World War, less than 5% of Algerian girls between the ages of 6 and 15 were at school (Seferdjeli 2014, 361).

29 Circular no. 275 (Health) of 30 November 1949 on the professional training of medical staff of psychiatric hospitals. Archives nationales d’outre-mer (ANOM), 1K-822/2.

30 Frantz Fanon, “Éditorial” (Notre Journal, no. 15, year 1, 1 April 1954).

31 Frantz Fanon, “Éditorial” (Notre Journal, no. 18, year 1, 22 April 1954).

32 Frantz Fanon, “Éditorial” (Notre Journal, no. 13, year 3, 28 March 1956).

33 M. Dussauge, “Inauguration du café maure” (Notre Journal, no. 28, year 1, 1 July1954); [Anonymous], “Quatrième division” (Notre Journal, no. 14, year 2, 24 March 1955).

34 Georges Counillon, Charles Geronimi and Meyer Timsit are some of them. Alice Cherki revealed that the nickname “Popoff” that was given to Timsit was an accurate reflection of his political orientation (Cherki 2011).

35 The interns of the HPB, “Éditorial” (Notre Journal, nos. 39 & 40, year 3, 27 September 1956).

36 Mr D., “Éditorial” (Notre Journal, no. 34, year 4, 14 November 1957).

37 Doctor Lotiron, “À propos de la “censure’” (Notre Journal, no. 9, year 6, 19 August 1959).

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List of illustrations

Title Figure 1. Banner of Notre Journal, no. 19, 29 April 1954, p.1
Credits Photograph: Paul Marquis.Source: Archives of the Frantz Fanon Psychiatric Hospital, Blida.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/sources/docannexe/image/1907/img-1.JPG
File image/jpeg, 191k
Title Figure 2. Banner of Notre Journal, no. 21, 13 May 1954, p.1.
Credits Photograph: Paul Marquis.Source: Archives of the Frantz Fanon Psychiatric Hospital, Blida.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/sources/docannexe/image/1907/img-2.JPG
File image/jpeg, 145k
Title Figure 3. Notre Journal, no. 13, 18 March 1954, p. 1
Credits Photograph: Paul Marquis.Source: Archives of the Frantz Fanon Psychiatric Hospital, Blida.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/sources/docannexe/image/1907/img-3.JPG
File image/jpeg, 1.5M
Title Figure 4. Banner of Notre Journal, no. 23, 31 May 1956, p. 1
Credits Photograph: Paul Marquis.Source: Archives of Frantz Fanon psychiatric Hospital, Blida.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/sources/docannexe/image/1907/img-4.JPG
File image/jpeg, 123k
Title Notre Journal, no. 13, 18 March 1954, p. 1
Caption Note on the image: The header of this copy does not correspond to that of the first issue of the in-house weekly magazine . The sketch of the hospital's mosque, the translation of the title into Arabic and the calligraphy of the title were incorporated into the weekly's header at a later date. It is therefore likely that the copy is a montage incorporating the initial content of the issue and a later header.
Credits Photograph: Paul Marquis.Source: Archives of the Frantz Fanon Psychiatric Hospital, Blida.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/sources/docannexe/image/1907/img-5.jpg
File image/jpeg, 1.1M
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References

Electronic reference

Paul Marquis, “A Hospital Journal. Reforming Psychiatry in Colonial Algeria during Wartime (1953–1959)”Sources: Materials & Fieldwork in African Studies [Online], 8 | 2024, Online since 03 July 2024, connection on 12 July 2024. URL: http://journals.openedition.org/sources/1907; DOI: https://doi.org/10.4000/11xk5

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About the author

Paul Marquis

Institut des mondes africains (Imaf) ; Centre d’histoire de Sciences Po (CHSP). https://orcid.org/0009-0008-9965-0033.

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Copyright

CC-BY-SA-4.0

The text only may be used under licence CC BY-SA 4.0. All other elements (illustrations, imported files) are “All rights reserved”, unless otherwise stated.

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