This paper was presented at
Psychology: The Indian Contribution
National Conference on
Indian Psychology, Yoga and Consciousness
organised by the Indian Council of Philosophical Research
at the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education
Pondicherry, India, 10-13 December 2004

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Cultural construction of creativity: Dualism and beyond

Minati Panda — Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

This paper examines why the contemporary psychological literature in India views creativity as a product of individual processes and how such an approach is influenced by the canon provided by Western studies and thought. The incongruous relationship between two cultural constructs in relation to self and creativity and the fundamental polarities and dichotomous thinking that results from certain built in dualities in the modern ways of knowing as well as many other cultural biases which influenced the way we define creativity are discussed. The artificiality of the polar oppositions - atomism vs. holism, order vs. disorder, creativity vs. conformity, and individualism vs. collectivism - created by Western literature is examined. The debate of cultural perceptions of creativity- the concept of lone genius vs. social creativity- is situated in such a discourse. From these dominant contemporary academic discourses on creativity, the argument moves to Indian literature and discourse, especially the ancient literature. Excerpts are taken from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, Bhartrhari’s writings on Pratibha, and a few ancient Indian writings on Hindu and Buddhist art, which are briefly analysed in order to reflect on the cultural construction of art (and the creative process) in ancient India. Finally, the paper explores how a cultural framework for understanding creativity can serve as a corrective to methodological individualism and contribute to shifting the research focus from studying the lone creative individual to the creative process.

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