CHAPTER FOUR: Atlas of Indo-German Fantasies
Book Release:
August 11th, 2005

Freud on Garuda’s Wings: Psychoanalysis in Colonial India

This contribution follows psychoanalysis on its journey to-and-from India. While Freud ‘went East’ by covering his couch with an oriental rug, G. Bose, the founder of the Indian Psychoanalytical Society ‘went West’. He replaced the psychoanalytic couch with a colonial deck chair. The Bose-Freud correspondence (1921 to 1937) reveals remarkable differences in their respective philosophical views and psychoanalytic methods. In his letters to Bose, Freud commented on his Indian colleague’s lack of a “dynamic” i.e. a chronological-, causal-, and progress-oriented perspective. In his letters to Freud, Bose highlighted the importance of the maternal deities in his Bengali Hindu culture and rejected both Freud’s view of the transcultural universality of the Oedipus-complex and his notion of penis envy. Instead he claimed to have discovered ‘a wish to be female’ among his Bengali patients. When a statuette of Vishnu, which was sent to him by the Indian Psychoanalytical Society, had developed cracks, he expressed a premonition that his views and methods would not travel easily. Regarding this damaged ‘trophy of conquest’, as he had called it in his letter of thanks to Bose, Freud wrote in his diary ‘Can the god, being used to Calcutta, not stand the climate in Vienna?

Christiane Hartnack is Deputy Head of the Department of Cultural Studies at the Donau Universitaet Krems (Austria). She was also Lecturer in Psychology at the Freie Universitaet Berlin, and has taught at the Universities of Iowa and Vienna and at Wellesley College.




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