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Identity: Indian Style

V. Veeraraghavan

Edited by Sudhir Kakar
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1979, pp. 132, Rs. 35.00

VOLUME V NUMBER 3 November/December 1980

‘Identity and Adulthood’ is the pro­duct of a month-long seminar organized by the Indian Council of Social Sciences Research in the year 1978, when experts such as Erik Erikson, basically a psycho-analyst was called upon to lead the dis­cussion. Sudhir Kakar as the editor has attempted to bring together in this volume the views of experts from different fields on the growing up process in the Indian context. While Professor Erikson's concept of Identity provided the base for discus­sions, Sudhir Kakar argues that identity can be discussed only in the context of personal growth and communal change. Further, he opines that identity crisis in individual development cannot be separ­ated from the contemporary crisis in the historical development of his group. Identity crisis is now accepted as an in­dicator of a turning point, when develop­ment either takes a progressive or regres­sive direction. This crisis is seen in individual development or in the emer­gence of  a new elite, or in the change that occurs in the individual who is go­ing through a therapeutic session, or even in the tensions of a rapid historical change. Thus the identity is both in the individual and in his culture and it emer­ges from the interplay of the psychologi­cal and social and the developmental and historical aspects. The authors from the fields of history, psychology, psychiatry, anthropology, sociology and literature try to conceptualize identity and adult­hood using concepts from their respective fields. Dr. Ramanujam presents case histories of seven patients whom he treated, and discusses the psychodynamics from Erikson's point of view. He succeeds in demonstrating how a state of acute iden­tity diffusion becomes manifest at a time when the individual finds himself exposed to a combination of experiences which demand his simultaneous commitment to physical intimacy, and decisive occupa­tional choice. His cases amply highlight the defects and shortcomings in the exist­ing child rearing practices in India. The anchor of superstition a person holds on to, in the absence of people in the environment who could offer a person the continuity of existence, are highligh­ted by him. He thus points out the diffi­culty in perceiving one's identity when all parameters are vague and diffuse. Dr. Ramanujam has strikingly brought forth the uncertainty, dependence and the in­capacity to make independent decisions amongst many Indian youths and adults, as a consequence ...

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