(C12) Mental Health at the Interface of Religion and Politics in Contemporary India

This project explores the staging of mental health issues in multiple settings in contemporary India. It starts from the observation that public recognition of mental illness is a relatively recent phenomenon in India. In the last decade, mental health issues have risen from the margins of civil, administrative and political concerns into the limelight of a contested Indian modernity. At stake here are conflicting views and categorizations of madness/mental illness in terms of sorcery, possession and other cosmological categories (e.g. karma) on the one hand, biology or individualism on the other. Different models of mental disorder are embedded in diverse political and cultural social life-worlds and institutions (ritual healing sites, psychiatric clinics, NGOs) that cut across the boundaries of religious community, caste and class. The project focuses upon the experiences and the agencies of mentally troubled people, their families and their healers and therapists and explores these against the background of performances of political control and media staging of mental health issues. As the medicalization of madness has been a significant aspect in European history accompanying the emergence of "secularization", in the context of the Cluster at large the project aims at contributing to a critical assessment of this by now dubious axiom from a non-European site of global modernity.