Intimate Relations: Exploring Indian Sexuality
by Sudhir Kakar
University of Chicago Press, 1990
Cloth: 978-0-226-42280-0
Library of Congress Classification HQ18.I4K35 1990
Dewey Decimal Classification 306.70954

ABOUT THIS BOOK | AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY | TOC
ABOUT THIS BOOK
Plumbing the hearts of women and men in India and exploring the relations they engage in, Sudhir Kakar gives us the first full-length study of Indian sexuality. His groundbreaking work explores India's sexual fantasies and ideals, the "unlit stage of desire where so much of our inner theater takes place."

Kakar's sources are primarily textual, celebrating the primacy of the story in Indian life. He practices a cultural psychology that distills the psyches of individuals from the literary products and social institutions of Indian culture. These include examples of lurid contemporary Hindi novels; folktales; Sanskrit, Tamil, and Hindi proverbs; hits of the Indian cinema; Gandhi's autobiography; interviews with women from the slums of Delhi; and case studies from his own psychoanalytic practice. His attentive readings of these varied narratives from a vivid portrait of sexual fantasies and realities, reflecting the universality of sexuality as well as cultural nuances specific to India.

Moving from genre to genre, Kakar offers a brilliant reading of verses from the Laws of Manu, the original source of Hindu religious laws, to uncover their psychological foundations—male terror of the female sexual appetite that shields itself by idealizing women's maternal role. Kakar also examines the psychosexual history of Gandhi at length, though his near-lifelong celibacy makes him an atypical subject. Gandhi's story is universal, Kakar says, because "we all wage war on our wants."

In India's lore and tradition, complex symbols abound—snakes that take the shape of sensual women or handsome men, celibates sleep with naked women, gods rape their daughters, and a goddess fries a king in oil. With the analyst's "third ear," Kakar listens, decodes, and translates the psychological longings that find expression in Indian sexual relations.

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