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“Laying down Psychoanalytical Framework for Psychologising Casteism”

Ms Sanya Khetarpaul, Independent Researcher, Haryana, India


Caste bias is not a new phenomenon, it has been existing since centuries and is still ingrained in mindsets, especially in those of the so called upper castes. Through this paper, I'm going to answer why it is so, why even after five thousand years our minds have been unable to banish this caste hostility. Segregation or discrimination based on caste has its roots in the Hindu mythology in that there are certain practices and rituals enunciated in Brahminism which preach "inequality as a religious doctrine". I'm going to conduct a critique of Brahminism as a practice which not only oppresses lower castes but also dehumanizes them as 'untouchables', thus giving rise to casteism.

Further, I want to emphasize that this discrimination is not so much religious or social as much as it's psychological. To conduct a psychoanalysis of casteism, I'm going to take cues from the Lacanian scholarship in the field of racism to outline a psychoanalytical framework to theorize casteism. In order to do so, it's first necessary to conduct a comparative study of the cross-cultural phenomenon of social segregation in form of racism which is uniquely different from casteism but has same general attributes including inequality, power and privilege. According to Wilkerson, racism based on discrimination of skin color is one of the many forms of the deeply embedded system of domination and hierarchy, i.e. caste discrimination based on various human and social differences.

Next, I'm going to psychoanalyse how the very segregation of race or caste is precipitated out of the unconscious fantasy of the Dalit (other) by the casteist subject (an upper caste individual/Brahmin), giving rise to social discrimination in its material form. This very outcasting of the other from the society (the big Other) opens up the possibility of the jouissance (enjoyment) of the other (in that jouissance occurs where authority of the Symbolic Other/Law ceases to prevail), giving rise to the casteist fantasy that the other has access to an enjoyment inaccessible to the subject. I'll analyse how a homogenous social group (like Brahmins) is formed by collective hostility to the fantasmatic jouissance (enjoyment) of the Dalit (other) thus excluding the other as 'outgroup'. Freud writes about the basis of the formation of a social group is not so much on their unity but their collective 'hatred' of the other. Further, I'm also going to explore the impact of this hatred or aggression of the subject onto the Dalit (other) in form of mob lynching and their disrecognition from the society.

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