Psychoanalytic ideas in Indian culture: Girindrashekar Bose and a non- European imagination of psychoanalytic work

Home/ Psychoanalytic ideas in Indian culture: Girindrashekar Bose and a non- European imagination of psychoanalytic work
Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation CoreSHS3038322

Semester and Year Offered: 3rd Semester, 2nd year

Course Coordinator and Team: Prof. Anup Dhar

Email of course


Course objectives and description:

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". What was distinctive of Bose’s method and his research into the Indian psyche?

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'?

Aim: This course is about the dialogue between Girindrasekhar Bose and Sigmund Freud. The course will examine, why was there a dialogue in the first place? Why did the dialogue fail and where did it fail? In an examination of this, the course will foreground a non-European imagination of psychoanalysis.

Course Outcomes:

  1. Engaging with Psychoanalysis from a non-European lens.
  2. Distinctiveness of Indian Psychoanalysis emerging through Freud-Bose correspondence
  3. Exploring the Universal aspect of Psychoanalysis which is not governed by Christianity in its entirety.

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

  1. The Origin of Psychoanalysis ‘in India’ As the first theme to be explored this would help to carve out an outline for the overall 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’.
  2. Girindrasekhar Bose and a ‘New Theory’ of Mental Life This reading would attempt to track a few questions: what was the 'culture of psychoanalysis' that had evolved in India? How did such thinking inform the question of (colonial) subjectivity
  3. An ab-original/aboriginal philosophy of mind? What makes psychoanalysis aboriginal? What conceptual displacements are necessary to address aboriginality? Being merely ‘other than the western original’ does not necessarily make psychoanalysis aboriginal. What was Bose doing? Through the Yoga-Sutras, was he making a move towards an aboriginal philosophy of mind?)
  4. This theme hopes to invoke 'aboriginalization' in a two-fold manner. The first is about the now-known history of the 'aboriginalization of certain cultures' during the colonial era. The second is about a possible post-Orientalist episteme. Participation at this level will help students realize that in the writing of research, our objective is not to just make micro-changes in western theories, keeping its architechtonics intact; but to aboriginalize its very archi-texture.
  5. Putting Ab-Original/Aboriginal Thought in Context A few questions to be explored herein are: 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? Does Freudian psychoanalysis colonize 'our' subjectivity? Does it colonize our ‘understanding’ of subjectivity?)
  6. Alternative sciences/Alternative selves We will endeavor to relate Bose’s work to another contemporary, Jagadish Chandra Bose, and try to understand how he too was thinking through the problem of the self of science and the science of the self.

The Politics of (Secret) Selves in Colonial India

Focusing on the research based writings of the well-known contemporary thinker and writer Ashis Nandy, certain aspects of the Indian culture and psyche will be delved into.

The Race of Psychoanalysis and an exploration into Psychoanalysis as a philosophy of sexual difference

By returning to the writingsof India’s SavageFreud Girindrasekhar Bose (1886-1953) and his ‘aboriginal theory of mental life’ (he called it A New Theory of Mental Life) we will attempt to grasp how he offers a different and distinctive understanding of sexual difference and sexed subjectivity. In that sense, reflection on this theme brings together (i) psychoanalysis (which marks its own difference with medicine, psychiatry and psychology), (ii) sexual difference (which marks its own difference with ‘feminisms of equality’ and generates its own kind of apposite positionality with respect to psychoanalysis) and (iii) cultural difference to overdetermination in a (post)colonial context.

Whither Critical Psychology? What can India offer to the field of Critical Psychology? Can we evolve and offer our own critical reading (a critical reading premised on 'cultural difference') of the qualitative methodology? Moreover, can India can offer to the somewhat sedate and contractual clinical setting of the west, the wholly/holy Other – provisionally termed ‘faith healing’. What does faith healing do to the clinical setting that critical psychology wishes to re-form? How are relationships of suffering-healing organized in faith driven settings? What clues do they offer to a modern culture that now sees the clinic as the only site of cure, and that has stripped itself of all other resources and imaginations of healing?

In this course, we would also like to suggest that the tradition of critical psychology in India cannot just rely on a critique of psychiatry or mainstream psychology. It has to be, simultaneously, a critique of Orientalism. Critical psychology in India is thus premised on a dualcritique. It is critique of both the hegemonic Occident and the Occident’s hegemonic description of the Orient.

Assessment Details with weights:

Reading List:

  • 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).
  • 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.
  • Bose G., Excerpts from Yoga-Sutras – Indian Psychoanalytic Society.
  • Bose, Girindrasekhar (1921). Concept of Repression. Calcutta: Sri Gauranga Press and London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Troubner and Co.
  • Bose, Girindrasekhar (1931). Gita. In Pravasi. Part 2(1), pp. 9-16.
  • Bose, Girindrasekhar (1948). A New Theory of Mental Life. Samiksha, Vol 2, No
  • Bose, Girindrasekhar (1949). Ambivalence. Samiksha, Vol 3, No 2.
  • Bose, Girindrasekhar (1951). The Nature of the Wish. Samiksha, Vol 5, No 4.
  • Bose, Girindrasekhar (1952). Analysis of Wish. Samiksha, Vol 6, No 1.
  • Bose, Girindrasekhar (1952). Pleasure in Wish. Samiksha, Vol 6, No 2.
  • Bose, Girindrasekhar (1952). Sex and Anxiety. Samiksha, Vol 6, No 3.
  • Bose, Girindrasekhar (1966). The Yoga Sutras. Calcutta: The Indian Psychoanalytic Society.
  • Bose, Girindrasekhar (1980). Svapna. Calcutta: Bangyia Sahitya Parisha.
  • Bose, Girindrasekhar (2001). Agranthito Girindrasekhar: Girindrasekhar Boser Nirbachito Rachana. ed. Basu, Kolkata: A. Granthalay Pvt Ltd
  • 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.
  • 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)
  • Dhareshwar, V. 1996. “Trial of the Pagans” in Cultural Dynamics Vol. 8, No. 2.
  • 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)
  • Hartnack, C. 2001. 'The Use of Psychoanalysis in the Treatment of Indian Patients' in Psychoanalysis in Colonial India, pp. 120-162 (OUP).
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • Nandy, A. 2004. 'Towards an Alternative Politics of Psychology', in Bonfire of Creeds: The Essential Ashis Nandy, pp. 324-338. OUP.
  • Said, E. 2003. Freud and the Non-European, pp. 13-55 (Verso: London and New York).
  • 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).
  • Vahali Oberoi, Honey. 2010. “Landscaping a Perspective: India and the Psychoanalytic Vista” – 5th ICSSR review of psychology in India. Delhi: Pearson
  • 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).