The Talking Cure in the ‘Tropics’
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This dissertation examines psychoanalysis in a colonial context, tracing its history in early to mid-twentieth century India. A rich, neglected archive of diaries, letters, administrative documents, as well as psychoanalytical and literary writing in Bengali and English, are drawn on to offer an account of the Indian Psychoanalytical Society (est. 1921), and the anthropologists, doctors, army officers and political figures who were in different ways intimately involved with psychoanalysis. Reconstructing these narratives, and by means of a close reading of texts by Freud, I suggest that the understandings of temporality, sexuality and authority in Freudian psychoanalysis resist colonial discourses of progress and civilisation, notably in relation to the category of the ‘primitive’, thus frustrating attempts to appropriate the theory for colonial endeavours. In this thesis, psychoanalysis is both an object of historical study, and a form of questioning, part of colonial history and a body of writing and theory available for contested readings. I discuss writing by two colonial psychoanalysts, Lt. Colonel Claud Daly, and Owen A.R. Berkeley Hill, which combines an investment in psychoanalysis with commitment to Empire, based on a desire for all-knowing psychic and political mastery. In contrast, the memoirs of renowned psychoanalyst Wilfred Bion, recounting his childhood in India, are read for their more complex psychic register and anti-colonial strain. Records left by dream-collecting colonial administrators in the Naga Hills, and documents relating to the trial and ‘insanity plea’ of revolutionary nationalist Gopinath Saha, show us the historical operations of psychoanalysis in collective life. In addition, literary writing by the modernist poet H.D., Temsula Ao, Bankimcandra Chatterji, and Rabindranath Tagore, offers another template for examining the issues raised by both the historical and psychoanalytical writing.
- Theses