PurposeThe purpose of this paper is to understand the role played by accounting in managing an early nineteenth century lunatic asylum in Palermo, Italy.Design/methodology/approachThe paper is informed by Foucault’s studies of lunatic asylums and his work on governmentality which gave prominence to the role of statistics, the “science of the State”.FindingsThis paper identifies a number of roles played by accounting in the management of the lunatic asylum studied. Most importantly, information which formed the basis of accounting reports was used to describe, classify and give visibility and measurability to the “deviance” of the insane. It also legitimated the role played by lunatic asylums, as entrusted to them in post-Napoleonic early nineteenth century society, and was a tool to mediate with the public authorities to provide adequate resources for the institution to operate.Research limitations/implicationsThis paper encourages accounting scholars to engage more widely with socio-historical research that will encompass organisations such as lunatic asylums.Originality/valueThis paper provides, for the first time, a case of accounting applied to a lunatic asylum from a socio-historical perspective.
Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal – Emerald Publishing
Published: Jun 19, 2017