The Colors of Violence: Cultural Identities, Religion and Conflict

For decades India has been the scene of outbursts of religious violence, thrusting many ordinary Hindus and Muslims into bloody conflict. This work analyzes the psychological roots of Hindu-Muslim violence and examines the subjective experience of religious hatred in the author's native land. Sudhir Kakar discusses the profoundly enigmatic relations that link individual egos to cultural moralities and religious violence. His psychological approach offers a framework for understanding the kind of ethnic-religious conflict that characterizes the turmoil in India. Using case studies, he explores cultural stereotypes, religious antagonisms, ethnocentric histories and episodic violence to trace the development of both Hindu and Muslim psyches. Kakar argues that in early childhood the social identity of every Indian is grounded in traditional religious identifications and communalism. Together these bring about deep-set psychological anxieties and animosities toward the other. For Hindus and Muslims alike, violence becomes morally acceptable when communally and religiously sanctioned. As the changing pressures of modernization and secularism in a multicultural society grate at this entrenched communalism, and as each group vies for power, ethnic-religious conflicts ignite. Sudhir Kakar is also the author of The Analyst and the Mystic: Psychoanalytic Reflections on Religion and Mysticism , Intimate Relations: Exploring Indian Sexuality and Shamans, Mystics and Doctors: A Psychological Inquiry into India and its Healing Traditions , all published by the University of Chicago Press.