En-Gender! Volume 3 Issue 2 (2020)

Medical Imagination: Homosexuality in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry. 1970-1980

by Rianna Price

Rianna Price is a current PhD student at Lancaster University. Her research is on the use of Conversion Therapy to treat homosexuality in post-Independence India. She has written recently for The Conversation about her research. Alongside her PhD, she has launched EPOCH magazine with her fellow PhD colleagues in the History Department at Lancaster. Twitter: @Rianna_Price

Keywords: Sexuality, Queer, Medicine, Postcolonialism, Discourse


The Indian Journal of Psychiatry is one of the few immediate sources which provide an insight into the medicalization of homosexuality in post-Independence India. The journal, established during the late colonial period, was, and still is, one of the leading publications in psychiatric practice and discourse in India. Through the lens of medical intervention, we can glean the attitudes of psychiatrists, using close textual analysis, as well as interrogating the citations and references to wider study on this issue. My research has led me to conclude that there was a significant emphasis on Euro-American techniques to ‘cure’ non-normative sexual behaviours and practices.

Using these sources, it is also possible to construct a methodology which uses micro-histories to create interpretations which are multi-vocal and reinstate the marginalised figure as an individual, rather than a diagnosis. While my broader PhD will concentrate on achieving these aims, this piece takesthe first ‘phase’, as I have constructed it, of IJP involvement in the medicalization of homosexuality, and uses it to amplify the broader, globalised concerns surrounding non- heteronormative sexual practice.

Review by Lucy Threadgold:

The article is a piece of new transnational research that brings together histories of colonial legacies in India, gender norms and sexuality, and experiments in psychiatry. This essay is successful in tying these complex topics together to create a cohesive argument and clear writing skills that cover a sizeable time period.

The Indian Journal of Psychiatry is a fascinating historical source and the author sprinkles in extracts in a way that does not disrupt the flow of the essay, and only strengthens their argument which can often be difficult when using medical texts as sources.

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