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National identification: A psychoanalytic understanding of the role of renaming of streets and cities in India

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This paper is an engagement with the problem of national identification and attempts to explain why it is so persistent. Beginning with Freud’s formulations around identification with respect to the mass mind and the moving to Lacan, the paper attempts to address questions around the perseverance of national identity. From both a Freudian and Lacanian understanding, identification is an ambivalent process that lasts through a subject’s life. It is the desire for recognition from the Other (in this case the nation) all the while circling around the subject’s own experience of lack. Bolstering this lack is the enjoyment that the Other promises the subject. Using the concepts of the ego-ideal and the ideal ego along with the partial encounters with jouissance, the paper attempts to chart the ways in which identification is encouraged within the Indian nation state and how the contradictory process within it makes national identity difficult to question. The paper takes as its case the renaming of cities and streets in India, under the aegis of the current Indian government. I argue the new names, and the justifications offered for the change, signify the changes occurring in the symbolic order of the nation. These changes offer a “new” iteration of the nation state, where older desires around nation building proliferate.

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Correspondence to Karuna Chandrashekar.

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Chandrashekar, K. National identification: A psychoanalytic understanding of the role of renaming of streets and cities in India. Psychoanal Cult Soc (2023).

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