Home/Vol1.No.1.June 2015 / Cusp The Journal-June 2015-Article index 1 / Editorial : Anup Dhar

Why CUSP?

Anup Dhar

Given the focus on mental health to the exclusion of larger socio-cultural (as also political economy) questions, given the study of larger socio–cultural questions to the exclusion of questions of subjectivity and human relationalities, CUSP wishes to engage with questions of mental health and culture-subjectivity in their intimate imbrications. Through such an engagement CUSP wishes to expand and deepen the engagement (a) the field of mental health has at present with questions of culture, and (b) the space social science has at present with questions of intersubjectivity.

CUSP wishes to rethink the space of culture and subjectivity in their intimate imbrications with questions of mental health (as also to develop in the process an integrated approach to mental health). CUSP is a research initiative that is trying to extend critical human science concerns and questions (that includes questions of culture and subjectivity) to spaces that attend to mental health in terms of research, pedagogy, or alleviation of suffering; it is in turn bringing into human science spaces, concerns, and questions that inhabit the space of mental health. Taking off from the interface, interaction, and integration of the concerns and questions of these two spaces that have hitherto remained separate and alien to each other, CUSP is trying to rethink (and critically reflect upon) the question of mental health in India in the context of questions of culture, subjectivity, and psychic economies. One may immediately ask, what is there to rethink. Is it not enough to just apply the tools we already have (tools that either are derived from the west or are inherited from an Indian past)? Why can’t we just apply existing western thought or apply them at most in a slightly reformed way–reformed so as to suit Indian conditions? Here one must keep in mind that there is consensus on the fact that the existing forms of application are indeed a problem; the mental institutions lack infrastructure and facilities; human rights violation of the sufferer is an added problem. However, there is difference on the solutions that are being offered. Some see it is as a problem of application itself; for them it is an administrative problem; others see it as a problem particular to India. We, on the other hand, see the problem as not a problem just of application but of knowledge; it is not just a problem of the application of (western) tools to (Indian) contexts, but of the very tools (here knowledge) that are being applied (both western and eastern). This sets up the context of the two sets of questions CUSP wishes to engage with. The first concerns larger cultural questions (which include cultures of intimacy, aggression, violence, suffering, and love to name a few) and the second the more circumscribed space of attending to mental health, which in turn could lead to four questions: (1) the question of knowledge; what is it that we are applying? (2) the question of context; where are we applying; what are the different applications that are at work in India? (3) the question of the subject of suffering; on whom are we applying? (4) the question of the subject of knowledge; who is applying?

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