Psychology for India

Home/ Psychology for India
Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation ElectiveSUS1PS7124

Semester and Year Offered: 6th Semester/ 3rd year of the BA Honors with a Major in Psychology

Course Coordinator and Team: Anshumita Pandey

Email of course coordinator: anshumita[at]aud[dot]ac[dot]in

Pre-requisites: Students should have successfully completed the course on Understanding Personality (SUS1PS701).

Aim: Premised on the limits of a universal psychology, the course on Psychology for India aims to circumscribe what passes off as the discipline of psychology into a culturally located form: it’s primarily Western origin and environ. Foregrounding the need for situated knowledge, the course questions the relevance of a psychology emanating primarily from West/Europe to Non-western and Non-European cultures, experiences and psyches and attempts to look for resources for a culturally sensitive psychology. What are the conceptual and pragmatic tools needed for such an engagement? Does Psychology need to be liberated from complacent and complicit foundational biases if it is to work towards its emancipatory potential? In re-apprehending the story of global psychology as a ‘glocal’ psychology, the course hopes to create an opportunity for an active and affirmative understanding of other(ed) locations - of other(ed) cultures - as sites of active knowledge production. How have practitioners of Psychology and allied fields in India understood questions of selfhood, identity and healing? Does this situated lens carry a potential to re-define critical ideas within psychological corpus? Through this bivalent critical engagement, with the received discipline of psychology and its Indian counterpart, the course aims to create a space for the practice of a critical cultural psychology, a Psychology (relevant) for India.

Course Outcomes: By the end of the course, the student will be able to:

  1. Critically evaluate Psychology’s privileging of Eurocentric experience and the universalist assumptions inherent in the same.
  2. Analyze whether psychology needs to be culture-fair and self-reflexive and argue for a culturally sensitive practice of Psychology.
  3. Describe seminal ideas of the traditions of critical and cultural psychology.
  4. Demonstrate his/her understanding of the relationship between culture and psyche and acknowledge psyches as embedded in historical, cultural, socio-political contexts.
  5. Critically reflect on hegemonic voices that structure ‘Indian’ experiences by appreciating and acknowledging dynamics of caste and gender as they are encountered in the everyday.
  6. Describe psychological processes involved in healing from the vantage points of psychoanalytic thought and indigenous perspectives on cure.
  7. Identify their own location within a socio-politico milieu while acknowledging and appreciating the diversity in lived experience and contexts.

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

Unit 1: Do we need a Cultural Psychology?

Is the discipline of psychology a ‘global’ or a ‘glocal’ affair? What are its inclusions? What remains on the outside? What insights does it offer us about experiences of an ‘Indian’ psyche? Routed through writings in the field of Critical and Liberation psychology, tracing the impact of post-modern scholarship and the paradigmatic shifts it entails, the introductory unit hopes to start a dialogue about the need for a culturally sensitive psychology.

Unit 2: ‘Indian’ Psychology or Psychology for India?

What are the constitutive assumptions on which a cultural perspective bases itself? Can there be an essential model of an Indian psyche? Is there ‘an Indian way of thinking’? How does Psychology as a discipline render itself relevant in Indian soil scents? The unit opens up the need for a self – reflexive praxis of Psychology in India.

Unit 3: Notions of Self and Identity

Self and its intimacies form the leitmotif of this unit as we begin to explore psychic structures in India. What are the theories of personhood, consciousness, motivations and aesthetics that shape psyches? What forms of representation have these found in the discipline of psychology? We proceed through a close reading of writings by psychologists, psychoanalysts and social theorists on notions of self and identity.

Unit 4: Mental Health in Indian traditions

The unit traces the departures from western notions of mental health and chronicles indigenous approaches to classification and treatment. Sites of cultural healing, a key emphasis, open up alternative discourses of cure, notions of self and modalities of ‘being-in-the-world’ as one sets up a dialogue and between healing practices in culture(s) and psychology.

Unit 5: Gendered Stories

The question of feminine identity is the primary emphasis of this unit. Routing itself through a critical reading of the lived realities of Woman in India, the unit attempts to explore notions of identity, of masculinity and femininity, questions of motherhood and daughterhood as they inform self-experience.

Unit 6: Caste in India

The unit attempts to bring together ‘the subject’ and ‘the abject’ as it discusses Caste in India, it’s rootedness in psyches and psychosocial reality and the ‘ontological trauma’ of being born an ‘other’. Stories of oppression, resilience and critique, these life narratives become lenses to look at ‘situatedness’ anew as they de-center entrenched locations of the normative.

Assessment Details with weights:

  • Group presentations: 30%
  • In class reflective writing: 40%
  • End term essay/viva: 30%

Reading List:

  • ‘Critical Psychology for Social Justice: Concerns and Dilemmas’, Critical Psychology: An Introduction, Fox D, Prilleltensky I , Austin S (2nd ed), Sage Publications, 2009
  • ‘Cultural Psychology – What is it?’, Cultural Psychology: Essays on comparative human development, Stigler JW, Shweder RA, Herdt G ed., Cambridge University Press,1999
  • ‘The Non – Pradigmatic Crisis of Indian Psychology: Reflections on a Recipient Culture of Science’, Nandy A, Indian Journal of Psychology, 1974
  • ‘Is there an Indian Way of Thinking?’, Ramanujan AK, Contributions to Indian Sociology, 1989
  • ‘The Maternal Feminine in Indian Psychoanalysis’,Culture and Psyche, Kakar S, Oxford University Press, 2008
  • ‘The Inner Experience of Caste’,The Indians, Kakar S, Penguin, 2009
  • ‘Humiliation: Politics and the Cultural Psychology of the Limits of Human Degradation’, Nandy A, Humiliation: Claims and Context, Guru G ed, Oxford University Press,2009
  • ‘Soul Knowledge and Soul Force: The Pir of Patteshah Dargah’, Shamans, Mystics and Doctors: A Psychological Inquiry into India and it’s Healing Traditions, Kakar S, The University of Chicogo Press, 1991
  • ‘Motherhood in Ancient India’, Bhattacharji S, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 25, No. 42/43 (Oct. 20-27, 1990), pp. WS50-WS57 (
  • ‘Body as Space, Body as Site: Bodily Integrity and Women’s Empowerment in India’, Mathur K, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 43, No. 17 (April 26 – May 2, 2008), pp. 54-63 ( )
  • ‘Motherhood and Daughterhood’, Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution, Rich A, WW Norton , 1995
  • Anek Ramayan, Documentary film, Sen, Theatrically Active Parents for Education (TAPE), 2007
  • There’s something in the air, Documentary film, Ghufran I, 2012
  • India Untouched, Documentary film, Stalin K, 2007


  • ‘The Role of the Psychologist’, Writings for a Liberation Psychology, Martin-Baro I, Harvard University Press, 1994
  • ‘Psychological Science in a Post-Modern Context’, Gergen K, The Americal Psychologist, 2001 (56), 803-813
  • ‘Introduction’, The Indians, Kakar S, Penguin, 2009
  • ‘The Indian Mind’,The Indians, Kakar S, Penguin, 2009
  • ‘The Psychology of Self and Identity: Perspectives from the Indian and Western Traditions’,Paranjpe A, Handbook of Psychology in India, Misra G ed., Oxford University Press, 2011
  • ‘Beyond the Mask: An Exploration of Human Identity based on the work of Sri Aurobindo’, Cornelissen M, Handbook of Psychology in India, Misra G ed., Oxford University Press, 2011
  • Phenomenology of Untouchability’, The Cracked Mirror: An Indian Debate on Experience and Theory, Guru G and Sarukkai S, Oxford University Press, 2012
  • Annihilation of Caste (Annotated Critical Edition), Ambedkar BR, Navyana, 2014
  • ‘Healing and Culture’, Shamans, Mystics and Doctors: A Psychological Inquiry into India and it’s Healing Traditions, Kakar S, The University of Chicogo Press, 1991
  • ‘Women’s Identity in Psychological Theory and the Indian Cultural Context’ Kishore K, Misra G, Handbook of Psychology in India, Misra G ed., Oxford University Press, 2011
  • ‘Language and Body: Transactions in the Construction of Pain’, Life and Words:Violence and the Descent into the Ordinary, Das V, Oxford University Press, 2006
  • Sita Shakti: Cultural Paradigms for Indian Women, Guzder J, Krishna M, Transcultural Psychiatric Research Review, 1991
  • Sita sings the blues, Animated film, Paley N, 2008