The purpose of this research is to investigate the Hastings State Hospital (HSH) and its cemetery (HSHC) within a multidisciplinary framework, invoking discourse analysis, demography, and critical race theory to examine how power and risk factors impact the treatment and disposal of the body at death. It incorporates perspectives from both anthropology and sociology to interpret the data, relying heavily on the ideas of Michel Foucault. Integrating these diverse analytical tools is important to this research because social and structural forces all intersect in the creation of identity, power, and inequality.

All data in this study represent patients that have died at HSH from 1900-1978. This research is unique and important because this is the first critical examination of the deceased patient population at HSH using the complete obituary records. Patient records remain locked for 75 years after death, restricting public access to patients that died earlier than 1944 at the time this study was conducted. Patients that died after 1944 could still have spouses or children that could potentially be impacted by the stigma associated with institutionalization. The lack of anthropological scholarship about institutionalization in Minnesota underscores the importance of this research. It is long overdue.

This study examines how variables like class, gender, immigrant status, age, and civil status are transformed into risk factors for commitment. I examined burial practices and treatment of the body after death by separating the HSH sample into subgroups: private burials, burial at the asylum cemetery, individuals sent to the U of M as cadavers, and unknown. No skeletal material is available from the cemetery; research was conducted through archival methods. The results of this study suggest that the aforementioned variables do have a significant impact on risk, burial practices, and treatment of the body.

Throughout the paper I use the discourse of insanity developed during the 16th-20th centuries to enhance my discussion. The language of the time period is controversial and considered inappropriate by 21st century standards. The structure of this paper is designed to bring the audience along on a journey, one that illustrates the experience of insanity in America from the 18th to the 20th century. A strong understanding of history is necessary to interpret the results of the research. It begins with an introduction and a discussion about the history of institutionalization in Europe, America, and Minnesota. I then explain my methods and conclude with the results of my analysis and a discussion about my findings.


Kathleen T. Blue

Committee Member

Kathryn Jay Elliott

Committee Member

Angela Jill Cooley

Date of Degree




Document Type



Master of Science (MS)


Social and Behavioral Sciences



Rights Statement

In Copyright