Colonization and madness: involuntary psychiatric commitment law and policy frameworks as applied to American Indians
This dissertation project is a legal and policy analysis of California's involuntary psychiatric commitment laws and policy as applied to American Indians (AI). Mental health-based civil commitment and conservatorships constitute some of the most severe intrusions into personal liberties and freedom outside of the criminal justice system. In the context of AI peoples and tribal Nations, however, these intrusions implicate not only individual freedoms and well-being but also larger notions of tribal sovereignty, self-determination, culture, and the dialectic relationship between individual identity and community knowledge related to definitions of health, illness and the social meaning of difference. Yet, in the context of involuntary psychiatric commitments, the law reflects a failure to understand this relationship, alternating between strategic use of the sovereignty doctrine to deny access to services or, alternatively, wholly absenting issues of sovereignty and Indigenous worldviews from legal discourse. This project explores the nuanced ways in which these issues are weaved into the fabric of mental health law and policy and how they function to codify, enact and maintain colonization for AI peoples and Nations.