Regional fields

Senegal, West Africa

Thematic fields

anthropology of health and illness, comparative psychiatry, psychiatry and justice, law and healthbr>


Africanism, medical anthropology, history of health, anthropology and psychiatry

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René Collignon dedicates his research to various aspects of health and medicine in Senegal and West Africa, attempting to link anthropological and historical approaches according to the perspectives of the currents of the history of social sciences and colonial sciences. It specifically focuses on the workings of collective memory during periods of crisis caused by epidemics, and on the reactions of populations to sanitary measures imposed upon them by those in power – first colonial powers, then the independent state – as these powers respond to the consequences of these sanitary perils. His project on the question of sexually transmitted diseases is particularly interesting in this regard. It examines not only the prejudices that have surrounded these ailments, but also their extension in the context of the AIDS epidemic.

Comparative psychiatry constitutes another branch of this research. Of particular interest is colonial Senegal, marked by a dual administration regime – direct in the Four Communes, indirect in the protectorate territories. The question of the status of persons, from the perspective of a tripartite legal system (French tribunals, indigenous tribunals, Muslim tribunals) sheds an original light on the nodal question of alterity that sits at the very heart of the history of “colonial psychiatry” and of the challenges that an “exotic” land presented to the initial field, which was European, in its development and application.

As a counterpoint to these historical studies, he is pursuing an examination of the conditions and needs existing at the junction of Psychiatry and Justice in Senegal, in partnership with Senegalese psychiatrists, judges and social science researchers.

He contributes to the work of the Senegalese “Droit, éthique, santé” (“Law, Ethics, Health”) network (part of the AUF’s international “Droit de la Santé” (“Health Law”) network).

Particularly attentive to questions of documentation and publishing, he is the editor of Psychopathologie africaine (Dakar, Senegal) and treasurer of the Société d’ethnologie.

Principal publications

  • 2012, L’apport de l’expérience de collaboration Psychanalyse/Anthropologie à l’hôpital de Fann-Dakar (Sénégal), in S. Dreyfus-Asséo, G. Tarabout, D. Cupa and G. Chaudoy (eds), Les ancêtres (Paris, EDK éditions): 113–124 [Pluriel de la psyché].
  • 2009-2010, Quel intérêt y aurait-il à se pencher sur l’histoire d’un obscur aliéniste lyonnais du XIXe siècle? À propos de l’ouvrage de: Frédéric Scheider, Arthaud de Lyon, aliéniste missionnaire, Psychopathologie africaine, 35 (3): 383–392.
  • 2007-2008, Y aurait-il une “difficulté spécifiquement française d’intégrer totalement dans ses réflexions, ses recherches le passé colonial et ses conséquences”? À propos de publications récentes sur l’histoire de la psychiatrie française en Algérie, Psychopathologie africaine, 34 (3): 373–394.
  • 1999 (with Charles Becker), A History of Sexually Transmitted Diseases and AIDS in Senegal: Difficulties in Accounting Social Logics in health Policy, in Philip Setel, Milton Lewis & Maryines Lyons (eds), Histories of Sexually Transmitted Diseases and HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa (Westport, CT, Greenwood Press): 65–96 [Contributions in medical studies, 44].
  • 1995 (with Momar Guèye), The Interface Between Culture and Mental Illness in French Speaking West Africa, in Ihsan Al-Issa (ed.), Handbook of Culture and Mental Illness: An International Perspective (Madison, CT, International Universities Press): 93–112.
  • 1989 (with Charles Becker), Santé et population en Sénégambie des origines à 1960: bibliographie annotée (Paris, INED) [online].
  • 1989, Pour un retour sur les “culture-bound syndromes” en psychiatrie transculturelle, Santé, Culture, Health, 6 (2): 149–162.
  • 1984, Les conditions de développement d’une psychiatrie sociale au Sénégal, Présence africaine, 129 (1er trimestre): 3–19.
  • 1984, La lutte des pouvoirs publics contre les “encombrements humains” à Dakar, Canadian Journal of African Studiest/ Revue Canadienne des Études Africaines, 18 (3): 573–582.
  • 1979 (with Diop Babakar), Aspects éthiques et culturels de la psychiatrie en Afrique, Social Sciences & Medicine, 13B: 183–190.


Publications available at the Éric-de-Dampierre library


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Mis à jour le 16 January 2014

Chargé de recherche retraité, CNRS
[Retired Researcher]