Just before India’s independence, a young Punjabi woman, ill at ease in her marriage and eager for personal and national freedom, sat down with psychiatrist Dev Satya Nand for an experiment in his new method of dream analysis. The published analysis documents a surge of emotion and reflections on sexuality, gender, marriage, ambition, trauma, and art. “Mrs. A.” (as she is known) turned to female figures from Hindu myth to reimagine her social world and its ethical arrangements, envisioning a future beyond marriage, colonial rule, and gendered constraints.
This book explores the conversation between Mrs. A. and Satya Nand, its window onto gender and sexuality in late colonial Indian society, and the ways Mrs. A. put ethics in motion, creating alternatives to ideals of belonging, recognition, and consciousness. It finds in Mrs. A.’s musings repertoires for the creative transformation of ideals and explores the possibilities of thinking with a dynamic concept of counter-ethics. An unconventional history of gender and sexuality in late colonialism, this book reminds us that the west did not invent feminism, that psychiatry’s history of innovation and creativity is global, and that ethical thinking does not need to center on western myths or paradigms.