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Surabhika Maheshwari

PSYCHOANALYSIS, CULTURE AND RELIGION: ESSAYS IN HONOUR OF SUDHIR KAKAR
Edited by Dinesh Sharma
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2014, pp. 314, Rs. 995.00

VOLUME XXXVIII NUMBER 9 September 2014

The book celebrates the coming of age of psychoanalysis in India. An ode to the great Indian analyst Sudhir Kakar, the book strings together essays by analysts and academicians inspired by Kakar’s work. Kakar made a significant foray into the Indian psyche, not rejecting tradition but integrating it into his understanding and analysis of the subcontinent. This collection of essays brings together thinkers from varied personal trainings and professional grounding, all sharing an analysis of the Indian vicissitudes. Robert A. Levine, Professor of Education at Harvard University, essays the contributions of ‘Asian explorers of Culture and Psyche’. He places together the contributions of Gananath Obeyesekere from Sri Lanka and Takeo Doi and Takie Sugiyama from Japan along with Kakar. Levine observes that these four intellectuals provided a prototype of research in the eastern cultures using western theorization. They explored the need for pychocultural understanding and to find a version of psychoanalysis that could embrace cultural variations instead of ethnocentrically ignoring it. The chapter makes interesting comparisons and agrees to an overwhelming need to contextualize human psychosocial development and experience even when their analysis is based on a Freudian approach. The much in news, controversial author Wendy Doinger’s chapter explores the symbolism, meaning and cultural narratives around the lingam. She traces and presents her analysis of the narratives exploring the various connotations of the lingam and the association of the sacred with the sexual. A long-time associate of Kakar’s, Jeffery J. Kirpal, draws on the British American novelist and philosopher Aldous Huxley and juxtaposes him with Kakar’s work. He takes up two interesting dichotomies in his chapter—the East-West divide and the science-religion/spirituality debate. Dinesh Sharma’s essay ‘Reinterpreting Sri Aurobindo’ is a reproduction of a presentation by the author made in 1990. The work analyses, through the life of Sri Aurobindo, the making of a mystic. The exchanges between culture, psychoanalysis and religion are well culled out and presented in detail for the reader. In an interesting chapter entitled ‘Psychoanalysis and the Problem of Religious Ecstasy’, June McDaniel takes forward the analyses of religious ecstasy experiences. A Professor in Religion Studies, June urges ‘psychoanalysis to avoid caricatures of ecstatic experiences often found in modern psychobiographies and analysis of religion and to develop a broader model of the self which can incorporate transcendent as well as relational forms of mystical ecstasy.’ In the chapter that follows, Harold ...


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