The Psychomachia of Caste and Psychoanalysis in India

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Divya Dwivedi


Psychoanalytic theory has been invoked to study gender, race, and colonialism, especially Indian postcoloniality, and its claims to cross-cultural relevance have also been interrogated in Indian scholarship from these perspectives. Given that caste determines nearly all aspects of life of both the upper and lower castes in India, a discussion of caste through psychoanalysis and vice-versa is conspicuous by its absence. This is consistent with the fact that the wider discipline of psychology has not adequately confronted the tremendous scale of suffering generated by caste-based inequality in the Indian subcontinent. Rather than assume the value of psychoanalysis in understanding the lived experiences of and attitudes towards caste, we can initiate a reciprocally interrogative encounter between caste and psychoanalysis with a view to examining the psychomachia of caste in contemporary life. The question of psychoanalysis in India should begin with the acknowledgement of two facts: the psychic dimension of suffering that is inflicted on the lower castes by the social order, and the psychic dimension of the denial or Verneinung of caste by the upper castes. We will then see how the psychomachia of caste cannot then be treated in the isolation of the clinic but requires sociogenetic theorization or sociodiagnostics (in Fanon’s sense) and social trans-formation. Caste might prove to be the most insightful site for developing a political, that is, emancipatory psychoanalysis which would have to exceed the clinic and intervene in social transformation.

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Dwivedi, D. (2024). The Psychomachia of Caste and Psychoanalysis in India. CASTE A Global Journal on Social Exclusion, 5(2), 97–120.
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