All the Mothers are One: Hindu India and the Cultural Reshaping of Psychoanalysis
Anthropologists have often turned to psychoanalysis to make sense of child development, sexuality, religion, and the unconscious in varied cultures. The challenge has been to take advantage of psychoanalytic insight but to avoid applying Western models without regard to differing cultural circumstances. All the Mothers Are One seeks to resolve this dilemma by offering an innovative synthesis of psychoanalysis with contemporary theories of cultural difference. Using his ethnographic research in India, Stanley Kurtz explores the psychology of Hinduism, opening with his account of his field discovery of a "new" Hindu goddess. Kurtz records his puzzlement that his Indian informants did not distinguish this goddess as a separate entity, but saw her, and all goddesses, as the multiple identities of a single comprehensive Mother Goddess. He then demonstrates how this complex transformation of goddess identities is rooted in the early experience of being raised by many "mothers" in the Hindu joint family. The creative, anthropologically informed psychoanalysis of Hindu culture that emerges yields a general method of reshaping psychoanalytic theory to fit the unique conditions of different cultures. This new, group-oriented developmental model is called "separation-integration, " and holds that, in the Hindu case, the child moves away from the exclusive attachment to a single mother and toward immersion in the larger maternal group. This is in direct contrast to the Western model of "separation-individuation, " wherein the child, aided by the father, moves away from the mother and toward individuated selfhood. This immersion in the Hindu maternal group plays a central role in the development ofculturally distinctive feelings and needs that are carried over into adult life. The book concludes with a brief reflection on mothering in contemporary America. Through a systematic critique of previous scholarship that has emphasized the individual and the universality of the Oed
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