Imperial Maladies: Literatures on Healthcare and Psychoanalysis in India

Pritha Kundu (Editor)
Hiralal Mazumdar Memorial College for Women, Kolkata, West Bengal, India

Debashis Bandyopadhyay (Editor)
Vidyasagar University, West Bengal, India

Series: Countries and Cultures of the World
BISAC: MED105000


Volume 10

Issue 1

Volume 2

Volume 3

Special issue: Resilience in breaking the cycle of children’s environmental health disparities
Edited by I Leslie Rubin, Robert J Geller, Abby Mutic, Benjamin A Gitterman, Nathan Mutic, Wayne Garfinkel, Claire D Coles, Kurt Martinuzzi, and Joav Merrick


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The thrust-area of this book is the connection between imperial anxieties and tropical health situations along with intriguing psychological questions involving race, politics, gender, history and colonial modernity. For a long time, the focus has largely been Eurocentric: the effects of European medicine and healthcare policies introduced to the sub-continental colonies have been viewed in relation to the strategies of governing the colonial subjects.

David Arnold’s Colonising the Body considers the State’s role in introducing European medicine as instrumental to the British imperial project in India. In literary representations, especially in the Late Victorian and early twentieth century fiction and memoirs by Rudyard Kipling, Philip Meadows Taylor, Flora Annie Steel and George Orwell, we have several pictures of a palliative, medically-oriented imperialism. Waltraud Ernst’s Mad Tales of the Raj (1998) and Christiane Hartnack’s Psychoanalysis in Colonial India (2001) offer thoughtfully documented analyses of the early developments of psychology and psychotherapy in colonial India. Indian medical historians like Poonam Bala and Projit Mukharji question the tendency of looking at western medicine only in terms of monopoly and power. However, the question of “Indianness” in psychoanalytic philosophy, trying to understand how the East hopes to locate Western psychoanalysis in a post-therapeutic journey, or how the anti-Oedipal or an-Oedipal manifests itself in Indian cultures of psychoanalysis, still remains an area demanding further attention.

The present volume seeks to understand such problems in colonial, medical and psychoanalytic discourses, from perspectives that are broadly interdisciplinary yet chiefly based on literary, historical and cultural studies. Containing fourteen chapters, this book hopes to succeed in exploring the medical and fictional literatures of colonial and postcolonial India, both in English and other Indian languages. The book is divided into such sub-themes as: Psychoanalysis , psychopathology and the aesthetics of malady; Literature, medicine and healthcare in colonial India; Historical Studies; Studies in popular fiction: sensational psychiatry; Medicine, gender and colonial modernity.


PART 1. Psychoanalysis , Psychopathology and the aesthetics of malady

Chapter 1. Buddha on Freud’s Desk: The East Sets Freud on a Post-Therapeutic Journey
Debashis Bandyopadhyay (Department of English, Vidyasagar University, Midnapore, West Bengal, India)

Chapter 2. The Other Father: Oedipus, anti-Oedipus and the an-Oedipal
Anup Dhar (School of Human Studies, Ambedkar University, Delhi)

Chapter 3. Deeper Maladies on Harrison Road’: The Aesthetics of Illness in Baudelaire and Jibanananda Das’ Late Oeuvre
Sambuddha Ghosh (Department of English, Krishnagar Government College, Krishnagar, Nadia, West Bengal)

PART 2. Literature, Medicine and Healthcare in Colonial India

Chapter 4. Indian Perspectives of Medicine and the Colonial era
Chaitali Maitra (Department of English, St. Paul’s Cathedral Mission College, Kolkata, West Bengal, India)

Chapter 5. Diseases and Healthcare in Kipling’s Short Stories
Abidita Goswami (Department of English, Budge Budge College, Kolkata, West Bengal)

Chapter 6. Breaking Free of the Dialectic: Amitav Ghosh’s The Calcutta Chromosome as a Critique of Modernity vis-à-vis Colonial Medical Science
Pabitra Kumar Rana (Department Of English, Govt. General Degree College, Dantan -II, Midnapore, West Bengal)

Chapter 7. Tropical Diseases and Helpless Colonial Responses: Medical Humanism in Greene's Journey without Maps and Farrell's The Siege of Krishnapur
Ujjwal Kr. Panda (Dept. of English, Govt. General Degree College, Dantan-II, Paschim Medinipur, West Bengal)

PART 3. Historical case-studies

Chapter 8. The Curious Discourse of Mesmerism in Colonial Bengal - James Esdaile: a Case-Study
Shreya Chakravorty (Department of English, Budge Budge College, Kolkata, West Bengal, India)

Chapter 9. King’s Disease: Tuberculosis in Colonial Calcutta (1900-1947)
Suvankar Dey (Department of History, Jadavpur University, Kolkata, West Bengal)

PART 4. Studies in Popular Fiction : Sensational Psychiatry

Chapter 10. 'Wilde Desire’ across Cultures: Dracula and its Bengali Adaptations
Prodosh Bhattacharya and Abhirup Mascharak (Department of English, Jadavpur University, Kolkata, West Bengal)

Chapter 11. The Centre and Its Mirror: Case Studies of Fourth World Poisons as A Motif in Colonial Bengal’s Detective Fiction
Piali Mondal (Department of English, Jadavpur University, Kolkata, West Bengal, India)

PART 5. Medicine, Gender and Colonial Modernity

Chapter 12. Women of Steel Amidst Tropical Maladies
Suchismita Neogi (Department of English, Budge Budge College, Kolkata, West Bengal, India)

Chapter 13. The Caged Phoenix? Politics of Affection and Identity for Women Medics in Colonial Bengal
Dhritiman Chakraborty (Department of English, Raigunj Surendranath Mahavidyalaya, University of Gour Banga, Malda, West Bengal, India)

Chapter 14. 'Lady Doctors’ in Colonial Bengal: Writing, Memory, History
Pritha Kundu (Deptartment of English, Chandrakona Vidyasagar Mahavidyalaya, Paschim Medinipur,West Bengal)



“This volume of essays represents a significant contribution to an important but rarely examined subject, the colonial history and context of psychoanalysis in India. Particularly interesting are the discussions of Indian literary engagements with colonial medicine and ideas about the self.” - Dr. Faisal Devji, University Reader in Modern South Asian History and Fellow of St. Antony's College, University of Oxford

“I have found a plethora of interesting questions being raised in the book.It is an interdisciplinary study of issues like race, medicine, healthcare policies and psychoanalysis in colonial India. It has added a new genre in collective thinking and it has not created any deterministic paradigm of its own. I feel that this volume will generate a platform of unbiased interactive exchanges among such studies in Humanities and Cultural Studies.” - Dr. Mahua Sarkar, Professor of History, Jadavpur University, India

The book is chiefly written for researchers, academicians and professors in the field of literature, medicine and psychoanalysis in the imperial context. Any cultural studies group may find it interesting. But we are at present unable to give particular names of such institutions. You may try to contact any department of humanities and culture studies of any college/ university.

Colonial and postcolonial developments in medicine and psychiatry constitute an interesting debate for the present academia and healthcare management sectors. Chapters 1, 2, 4, 5, 6 are important in this regard. For Gender Studies, which is now a field of global importance concerning women’s empowerment in society , one may find the chapters 12, 13, 14 useful.

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