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Volkan, V. (1996). The Colors of Violence: Cultural Identities, Religion, and Conflict. : By S. Kakar. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1996. Pp. 217.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 77:1271-1273.

(1996). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 77:1271-1273

The Colors of Violence: Cultural Identities, Religion, and Conflict. : By S. Kakar. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1996. Pp. 217.

Review by:
Vamik Volkan

This book focuses on the Hindu-Muslim violence of 1990 in the south Indian city of Hyderabad. The author, a practising psychoanalyst in Delhi, is keenly aware of the need to examine such areas as history, political science and sociology, which are traditionally emphasised in the study of social conflicts; however, this study of the deadly events in Hyderabad also incorporates the perspective of a psychoanalyst. Thus, Kakar supplements traditional ideas on the origin of social conflicts with psychoanalytic insight, without depending heavily on clinical terminology in the exploration of his observations. The result is a book that can be read easily by individuals from a broad range of disciplines; even those of us not familiar with Hindu or Islamic culture in India cannot help but be intellectually and emotionally caught up in the drama that occurred in Hyderabad in 1990.

The author approaches his study of the riots as if writing an individual case report. He begins with background information, including the history of the city and of the Hindu and Muslim groups who populated it. Hyderabad was founded in 1589 as the capital of the Deccan kingdom of Golconda and was envisaged as ‘a replica of heaven on earth’ (p. 5). The city was dominated by Islamic people whose ‘mainstream culture had roots in Arab, Turkish, and, especially, Persian ways of life’ (p. 6). But the Islamic domination did not exclude Hindus from administrative positions and some political power.

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