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Current State: Published
Course 801: Culture, Subjectivity and Psychoanalysis: The Politics of (Secret) Selves in Colonial India

Instructor: Anup K. Dhar

This course is designed to think the "politics of (secret) selves in colonial India". In that sense, this course is not just about ‘explicit selves’; it is also about ‘secret selves’. It is not just about 'bounded-bonded selves' - about selves explicitly marked by a certain Christianizing of the pagan world. It is also about 'elusive selves' - about selves not marked altogether by a (Christian) science of pagan practices. Was Girindrasekhar Bose such a self? It is also about moments in European selves who could not accept either Christianity or its secularized fusion of morality and religion or its claim to provide a theoretical foundation of practices. Was Freud such a self?       


Put in another way, this course is about the (failed) dialogue between Girindrasekhar Bose and Sigmund Freud. Why was there a dialogue in the first place? Why did 'psychoanalysis' become the placeholder for the dialogue? Why did the dialogue fail? Where it it fail? What was the source of the misunderstanding? Was it because Bose and Freud were two different selves emerging out of two modes-of-going-about-in-the-world? Taking off from the Bose-Freud correspondence this course tries to see how Bose was "experimenting with a psychological method of treatment of mental patients which was akin to psychoanalysis". This course thus tries to see what Bose's 'method' was? What was his 'philosophy of mind'? In other words, it tries to see who Bose was? What was his self? On the other hand, who was Freud? What were his (cultural) moorings? Were they Judaic/Hellenic? Was Freud a critique of Christianity? Did Freud's critique of Christianity make possible the dialogue between Freud and Bose - dialogue between a 'Western self that was at the same time a critique of Christianity' and a (pagan) self,a 'non-Western self not tainted altogether by the Christianizing of the pagan world'?   

Put in yet another way, this course is about the inauguration of a certain attitude-mindset in the social sciences – an attitude-mindset that inaugurates, in turn, a turn to subjectivity (as against objectivist accounts). It is that which inaugurates a turn to intersubjectivity as a ground and condition of knowledge. It inaugurates a turn to ‘thought’ as against ‘knowingness’. It inaugurates a turn to the Socratic question – “Who am I?” “How should I live?” It inaugurates an attention to the “work of the self on the self, an elaboration of the self by the self, a progressive transformation of the self by the self for which one takes responsibility in a long labor of ascesis (askesis)”.


Session 1:
The Origin of Psychoanalysis ‘in India’: an origin that made room for ab-original/aboriginal psychoanalysis!

This session would begin with an outline of the particular structure of the course. We would discuss the reason for setting up an engagement with the question of ‘subjectivity’ and that too in a ‘colonial context’ (what is of course the ‘colonial context’? one would have to ask – in that sense, this course is also about ‘coloniality’ – about “what coloniality is”). We would discuss the reason for setting up an engagement with psychoanalysis’ understanding of subjectivity and the psychoanalyst’s (here Freud-Bose-Lacan’s) understanding of (sexed) subjectivity. We would also discuss the reason for taking off from the Bose-Freud Correspondence and linking it thereafter with Lacan’s Return to Freud.

The Beginnings of Psychoanalysis in India: Bose-Freud Correspondence – Indian Psychoanalytic Society, pp. 1-28. Link found here

Supplementary Readings:
Those who think – “But we have to first know the basics of Freud and Psychoanalysis” – please attend a Film Screening titled Sigmund Freud: The Archaeology of the Unconscious. This film would help us get a grip of the problems Freud had encountered in his medical career; it would also help us see why a medical doctor flirting with questions related to the neurological moves after the aphasia book to questions relating to the ‘logic of the mind’, a logic menaced by the restlessness of the illogical; it would also show how Freud’s ‘method’ differs fundamentally from other epistemo-affective intersubjective encounters.
Also, read Lear, J. 2005. Freud (New York and London: Routledge). Read as well Lear, J. 1998. Open Minded: Working Out the Logic of the Soul, pp. 1-55 (Harvard University Press), containing three chapters – (a) Preface: The King and I, (b) On Killing Freud (again) and (c) Knowingness and Abandonment: An Oedipus of Our time.Link found here. Chapter 3 Link found here. The supplementary readings would help us understand and comprehend further the problem the course is trying to think through.

Sessions 2 and 3
Girindrasekhar Bose and a ‘New Theory’ of Mental Life: An ab-original/aboriginal theory?

Bose, G. 1966. Excerpts from “A New theory of Mental Life” in Samiksha: Journal of the Indian Psychoanalytic Society (ed. T. C. Sinha), Volume 20, Number 1. Link found here
(This reading would like to track a few questions: what was the 'culture of psychoanalysis' that had evolved in India? What was the 'psychoanalysis of culture' that emerged in the process? How did such thinking inform the question of (colonial) subjectivity? We would like to see Bose’s work as a particular moment within the broader general of a thinking of 'Subjectivity and Psychoanalysis'.)

Session 4
An ab-original/aboriginal philosophy of mind?

Bose G., Excerpts from Yoga-Sutras – Indian Psychoanalytic Society. Link found here
(What makes psychoanalysis aboriginal? What conceptual displacements are necessities to address aboriginality? Would the psychoanalytic approach/attitude be a ground for attending to aboriginal subjects? Being merely ‘other than the original’, being merely ‘other than the western original’ does not necessarily make psychoanalysis aboriginal. Does psychoanalysis, as that approach/attitude that thinks the subject and culture in their mutual constitutivity, offer conceptual ground to think the aboriginal (not just the ab-original), think the aboriginal of culture and subject? But then, to think the (psycho)analysis of the aboriginal one first needs to aboriginalise psychoanalysis. What was Bose doing? Through the Yoga-Sutras, was he making a move towards an aboriginal philosophy of mind?)
Guzeldere, G. 1998. 'The Many Faces of Consciousness' in The Nature of Consciousness: Philososphical Debates (ed. Ned Block, Owen Flanagan and Guven Guzeldere), pp. 1-45. (A Bradford Book – The MIT Press: Cambridge, Massachusetts, London). Link found here

Supplementary Reading:
' What Makes Us Think: A Neuroscientist (Jean-Pierre Changeux) and a Philosopher (Paul Ricoueur) Argue about Ethics, Human Nature and the Brain'.
(These readings would show what the western counterpart is thinking in terms of the nature and logic of consciousness – what the western counterpart is thinking in terms of ‘what consciousness is’.)

Session 5:
Putting Ab-Original/Aboriginal Thought in Context

Akhtar, S. (ed.). 2005. “Introduction” in Freud Along the Ganges: Psychoanalytic Reflections on the People and Culture of India, pp. 3-25 (Stanza: New Delhi). Link found here
Harnack, C. 2001. 'The Use of Psychoanalysis in the Treatment of Indian Patients' in Psychoanalysis in Colonial India, pp. 120-162 (OUP). Link found here
Vaidyanathan, T. G. and Kripal, J. K. (ed.). 1999. 'Psychoanalysis and Hinduism: Thinking Through Each Other' in Vishnu on Freud's Desk: A Reader in Psychoanalysis and Hinduism, pp. 438-452 (Delhi: OUP). Link found here
(These readings would explore a few questions: what was 'our' relation to Freudian psychoanalysis? What was the relation of 'our' understanding and invocation of psychoanalysis to what was or what emerged as 'our' (or as the 'Oriental') understanding of mind-self-subject? While ‘our’ psychoanalysis was perhaps ‘ab-original’ (i.e. different from the western original), was it at the same time ‘aboriginal’; was it ‘aboriginal psychoanalysis’ and not just ‘ab-original’ psychoanalysis? The other question that one could pursue in this context is whether Freud’s awareness of other cultures was inflected by the Judeo-Hellenic tradition that gave it its peculiarly “Western” stamp. Is there a whiting out of race-culture-coloniality? Is there a lack of questioning of how aspects of the constitution of subjectivity in terms of ‘cultural-colonial-sexual difference’ might complicate our understandings of psychoanalysis? Does Freudian psychoanalysis colonize 'our' subjectivity? Does it colonize our ‘understanding’ of subjectivity?)

Supplementary Readings:
Basu, Amit Ranjan. 1999. 'The Coming of Psychoanalysis in Colonial India: The Bengali Writings of Dr. Girindrasekhar Bose' in Culture and the Disciplines: Papers from the Cultural Studies Workshops (ed. Tapati Guha Thakurta), pp. 36-54 – Enreca Occasional Papers Series (5) – Centre for the Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta. Link found here
Oberoi, Honey. 2008. 'Landscaping a Perspective: India and the Psychoanalytic Vista'– Working Paper.

Session 6
Alternative sciences/Alternative selves

Nandy, A. 1995. 'Defiance and Conformity in Science: The World of Jagadish Chandra Bose' in Alternative Sciences: creativity and authenticity in two Indian scientists, pp. 17-87 (Delhi: OUP). Link found here
(This reading is trying to relate Bose’s work to another contemporary – to how another contemporary was trying to think through the problem of the self of science and the science of the self.)

Session 7
The Politics of (Secret) Selves in Colonial India

Nandy, A. 2004. 'The Savage Freud: The First Non-Western Psychoanalyst and the Politics of Secret Selves in Colonial India' in Bonfire of Creeds: The Essential Ashis Nandy, pp. 339-393. OUP (Call# 320.954 NAN) Link found here
Nandy, A. 2004. 'Towards an Alternative Politics of Psychology', in Bonfire of Creeds: The Essential Ashis Nandy, pp. 324-338. OUP (Call# 320.954 NAN) Link found here

Supplementary readings:
We would like to supplement this session with the audio recording of an interview of Ashish Nandy taken on the 23rd and the 24th of June, 2008.

Session 8
The Intimate Enemy: Loss and recovery of self under colonialism

Nandy, A. 1998. 'The Psychology of Colonialism: Sex, Age and Ideology in British India' in Exiled at Home, pp. 1-63 (New Delhi: OUP)

Session 9
Culture, Subjectivity and Psychoanalysis: The Politics of Other Selves


Fanon, F. 1967. Excerpts from the 'The Negro and Psychopathology in Black Skin, White Masks, pp. 141-209. (New York: Grave Press) Link found here
Mbembe, A. 2001. 'Time on the Move' in On the Postcolony, pp. 1-23. (Berkeley: University of California Press) Link found here
Roland, A. 1989. 'Psychoanalysis in India and Japan' in In search of self in India and Japan: toward a cross-cultural psychology, pp. 55-88 (Princeton University Press).Link found here
(These readings would show that the psychoanalytic approach is not 'One', but conflict-ridden from its inception; psychoanalysis itself spans from the meta-psychological to the hermeneutic, from the Anglo-American to the Franco-German, from those stemming from more North-Western spaces to those emerging from more colonial contexts-locations (at present we have three approaches in mind – the Indian (G. Bose), the Algerian (F. Fanon) and the Japanese.)

Session 10:
The Politics of the National/De-colonial Self: Swaraj in Idea(l)s

Nandy, A. 2004. Excerpts from 'The Illegitimacy of Nationalism: Rabindranath Tagore and the Politics of Self' in Bonfire Creeds: The Essential Ashish Nandy (New Delhi: OUP).pp.324-338 Link found here

Session 11
Subjectivity and Psychoanalysis

Screening of Luis Bunuel’s Un Chien Andalou [1928]

Calvino, I. 1983. “Reading a Wave” in Mr. Palomar, pp. 1-3 Link found here
Kafka, F. 1916. Metamorphosis, pp. 11-52 Link found here
Nagel, T. 1974. 'What is it like to be a Bat' in The Philosophical Review LXXXIII, 4, pp. 435-50 Link found here
Messer, S. B., Sass, L. A. and Woolfolk, R. L. 1990. 'If Persons are Texts' in Hermeneutics and Psychological Theory: Interpretative Perspectives on Personality, Psychotherapy and Psychopathology, pp. 28-50 (New Brunswick and London: Rutger’s University Press) Link found here
Haraway, D. 1997. 'A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, technology, and socialist feminism in the 1980s' in The Postmodern Turn: New Perspectives on Social Theory, ed. Steven Seidman, pp. 82-118 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).Link found here
Flax, J. 1993. 'Multiples: On the Contemporary Politics of Subjectivity' in Disputed Subjects: Essays on Psychoanalysis, Politics and Philosophy, pp. 92-110 (New York and London: Routledge).Link found here

Session 12: The Subject of Repression-Disavowal-Foreclosure

Freud, S. 1925. 'A Note on the Mystic Writing Pad' in General Psychological Theory, Chapter XIII, pp. 207-212.Link found here
Lear, J. 1998. 'Restlessness, Phantasy, and the Concept of Mind' in Open Minded: Working out the Logic of the Soul, pp. 80-122. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press).Link found here
Lacan, J. 2006. 'The Subversion of the Subject and the Dialectic of Desire in the Freudian Unconscious' in Ecrits (trans. Bruce Fink), pp. 671-702 (New York, London: W. W. Norton and Company).Link found here

Session 13
Epimeleia Heautou

Foucault, M. 2005. The Hermeneutics of the Subject : lectures at the College de France, 1981-1982, pp. 1-41 (Palgrave Macmillan). Link found here

6 January 1982: First Hour
Reminder of the general problematic: subjectivity and truth.
New theoretical point of departure: the care of the self.
Interpretations of the Delphic precept "know yourself."
Socrates as man of care of the self: analysis of three extracts
from The Apology.
Care of the self as precept of ancient philosophical and moral life.
Care of the self in the first Christian texts.
Care of the self as general standpoint, relationship to the self
and set practices.
Reasons for the modern elimination of care of the self in favor
of self-knowledge: modern morality; the Cartesian moment.
The Gnostic exception.
Philosophy and spirituality.

6 January 1982: Second Hour
Presence of conflicting requirements of spirituality: science
and theology before Descartes; classical and modern
philosophy; Marxism and psychoanalysis.

Session 14
The race of psychoanalysis: The psychoanalysis of race

Freud, S. 1990 (1939 [1934-38]). 'Moses, His People and Monotheist Religion' in Moses and Monotheism: Three Essays in The Origins of Religion, pp. 295-386 (London: Penguin Books) Link found here
Said, E. 2003. Freud and the Non-European, pp. 13-55 (Verso: London and New York).Link found here
Dhareshwar, V. 1996. “Trial of the Pagans” in Cultural Dynamics Vol. 8, No. 2.
Derrida, J. 1998. “Geopsychoanalysis: “ … and the rest of the world” in Christopher, L. (ed.) The Psychoanalysis of Race, pp. 65-90 (New York: Columbia University Press) Link found here
Spivak, G. C. 1994. “Psychoanalysis in the Left Field and fieldworking: examples to fit the title” in Speculations after Freud: Psychoanalysis, philosophy and culture (ed. Sonu Shamdasani and Michael Munchow), pp. 41-75 (New York and London: Routledge).


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