Family and Identity in India

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation CoreSHS2017214

Semester and Year Offered: 1st Semester, 1st Year.

Course Coordinator and Team: Mamatha Karollil

Email of course coordinator: mamatha[at]aud[dot]ac[dot]in

Pre-requisites: None


This course examines the possibility of a culturally informed and politically inflexed psychoanalytical/psychological understanding of families in India and the possibilities of various identities that follow from it in the Indian context. The course enables students to appreciate the links between the personal (self and identity) and the social (family, culture, power). From the point of view of clinical work, the course enables students to relate to the psychosocial matrix that will enable a deep listening to personal narratives within their cultural locations. The course will explore queer, feminist, anti-caste critique of families and may draw from Western theoretical frameworks too where relevant.

Course Outcomes:

The key abilities of the students undertaking the course will be to:

  1. Link the production of identity to familial dynamics in a cultural/social crucible.
  2. Locate the place of power and hierarchy in culture to the production of identities in families at the centre and margins of Indian society.
  3. Identify and examine diverse conceptions of the family in the Indian context
  4. Understand different conceptual/theoretical entries to the question of the psychosocial- psychoanalytical, cultural/anthropological and social constructionist.

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

Rethinking family, identity and culture. How can issues of cultural difference, gender and power be framed while thinking psychologically about family and identity ? The unit aims at leaving students with a methodological framework via classical texts on the family through which to interrogate these questions as they encounter later course through the remaining semesters of the programme.

Identity and Culture/Society in Psychoanalysis

The idea of identity is postulated as a minimum requirement to conceive of a subjectivities that are culturally, socially historically located.

The possibility of a culturally located psychoanalysis is discussed. This unit draws upon the Eriksonian idea of a psychosocial framework as essential for this framing. Fanon’s psychoanalytical re-reading of the marginal black identity in a colonial context is discussed.

The ‘inner world’ of Indians: Childhood and Onwards.

The significance of infancy and early childhood as lived in the family is explored from the psychoanalytical and anthropological perspectives. Firstly, the significance of the mother-son relationship is contrasted with the life of the daughter in the upper-caste Hindu family. Marginalized caste family formations and its implicit and explicit critique of brahminical family formations are also discussed.

Marriage and intimate relations in the Indian family. The psychoanalytical reading of intimate relations in India forms the base . The question of gender and social change is introduced through select readings from a feminist perspective.

Assessment Details with weights:

  • Class Participation: 20%
  • Reflections/Essay: 40%
  • Presentations/Group work: 40%

Reading List:

  1. Collier, J., Rosaldo,M. Yanagisako,S.(1997 ) Is there a family? New Anthropological Views. Rethinking the family. p.31-48.
  2. Engels, F. (1184/1902). The Origin of Family, Private Property and the State.
  3. Hollway, W. ( 2010) Relationality: The intersubjective foundations of Identity.
  4. Psychic Development and its Relationship with the Structure of the Family.
  5. Erikson, E.H. (1969 ) Identity, youth and crisis. New York: Norton. Chapter: “The Life-Cycle: Epigenesis of an Identity”
  6. Kakar, S. (1978) The Inner World. Delhi: OUP. Chapter “Mothers and Infants”
  7. Roland, A. (1988 ) In search of self in India and Japan: Toward a cross- cultural Psychology.New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
  8. (Chapters: “The Familial Self, Individualization and Modernization Process”, “ The Spiritual Self: Continuity and Counterpoint to the Familial Self”)
  9. Fanon, F. (1952) Black Skin, White Masks. London: Pluto Press. Chapter: “The Negro and Psychopathology”.
  10. Kancha Ilaiah ( 1996) Why I’m not a Hindu. Chapter: “Childhood Formations”.
  11. Serena Nanda (1999) Neither Man Nor Woman:The Hijras of India.London: Wadsworth Publishers. Chapters : “ The Hijras As Neither Man Nor Woman” and “Social Organization and Economic Adaptation”.



  1. Erikson, E.H. (1950) Childhood and society.. New York: Norton.
  2. Kakar(1996) Culture and psyche. Selected Essays. OUP.
  3. Kakar (2006) Culture in psychoanalysis. A personal journey. Social Analysis, vol.50,25-44.
  4. Nandy,A. (2004). Culture, voice and development. In A. Nandy(ed.) Bonfire of creeds.Delhi: OUP. p.304-311.
  5. Pine, F. (1985 )The psychologies of drive, ego , object relations and self. Developmental theory and clinical process.
  6. Schlein,S. (1987) . Erik H.Erikson. A way of looking at things. Selected papers. New York: W.W. Norton and Company
  7. Shweder, R. (1991 ) The astonishment of anthropology. Thinking through cultures: Expeditions in cultural psychology. Boston: Harvard University Press. pp.1-23.
  8. Travick. M.(1990) Love in a Tamil family. California University Press.
  9. Winnicott, D.W. (1971) Psychopathology manifested in the area of transitional phenomenon. In
  10. L. Caldwell and A. Joyce (Ed) (2011) Reading Winnicott. New York: Routledge.p.116-124.
  11. Winnicott, D.W. (1989) The family and individual development.