Preliminary abstract: Are notions of emotional wellbeing becoming more uniform the world over? Many scholars argue that there is a 'globalization of the American Psyche' currently underway, characterized by a 'loss of sadness' with a range of emotions reduced merely into depressive disorder and the ascendance of a capitalist monoculture of happiness premised on psycho-pharmaceuticals, consumerism, and cultures of aspiration. Are there other ways to understand emotional histories of the present, for instance, in non-western capitalist democracies? This project explores transformations of sadness in contemporary India, focusing on the urban poor, seeking to examine poverty not just as an economic condition but also in terms of changing affective experience and forms of suffering. Quantitative indices alternate between declaring India as 'the world's most depressed nation', even as other studies report India as being the world 'second happiest nation'. Proposing an alternative to such indices, this project shows how shifting conceptions of sadness and happiness may be approached anthropologically, by investigating three intergenerational shifts: an ethnography of a mental health clinic in an urban poor neighborhood in Delhi, examining the threshold at which an ordinary emotion begins to be perceived as a disorder; by tracking the ascending consumption of anti-depressants among the urban poor; and in public culture, by interviewing lyricists, scriptwriters and film viewers about the noticeable waning of the formerly dominant lyrical form of melancholia in Bombay cinema. Through medicine, media and everyday life, this project investigates shifting ideas of emotional wellbeing in late capitalism.
Post-Ph.D. Research Grant
Singh, Dr. Bhrigupati, Brown U., Providence, RI - To aid research on 'Transformations of Sadness in Contemporary India: Explorations within Cinema, Psychiatry and the Everyday Life of Urban Poverty'