Histories of madness in South Asia

Authored by: Waltraud Ernst

The Routledge History of Madness and Mental Health

Print publication date:  April  2017
Online publication date:  April  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138781603
eBook ISBN: 9781315202211
Adobe ISBN: 9781351784399


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Diversity is a central feature of the Indian Subcontinent’s economic, socio-political and cultural life, acknowledged if not venerated by historians and anthropologists alike. A succession of rulers and invaders of different stripes were well aware of it and at times accommodated and even encouraged it, while the British doctrine of divide and rule exploited it. Since the publication of Edward Said’s Orientalism, South Asia’s diversity has even been identified as one of the narrative tropes that the West employed in its hegemonic view of the East, coexisting alongside essentialist attributions such as ‘unchanging’, ‘backward’, and ‘irrational’. During the period of British colonial rule and the postcolonial era, the Western ‘gaze’ engendered, in a Lacanian reading, different kinds of psychological responses on the part of those aware of being viewed and judged. This chapter focuses on the various gazes and responses to them: the historiographic perspectives and theories employed, the historical themes highlighted and ‘the archive’ investigated, and, last but not least, the locale-specific gazes of scholars seeking their professional niche and career path on the globalised map of waxing and waning academic fashions, temporarily quasi-hegemonic academic networks, research funding priorities and the more or less nationalist politics of the powers that be.

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