Law and Critique

, Volume 29, Issue 1, pp 1–29 | Cite as

Mother India: The Role of the Maternal Figure in Establishing Legal Subjectivity



Psychoanalytic jurisprudence attempts to understand the images used by law to attract and capture the subject. In keeping with the larger psychoanalytic tradition, such theories tend to overemphasise the paternal principle. The image of law is said to be the image of the paterfamilias—the biological father, the sovereign, or God. In contrast to such theories, I would like to introduce the image of the mother and analyse its impact on the subject’s relation to law. For this purpose, I examine the history and use of the figure of Bharat Mata or Mother India and how it influences the Indian subject’s relation to law. When the subject is torn between his loyalties to the lawmaker–as–father and the nation–as–mother, who does he side with? Eschewing Greek myths and the Oedipus complex, I focus instead on Hindu mythology and the notion of an oedipal alliance to understand legal subjectivity in India. Lastly, I analyse a defining Indian political trial, the Gandhi murder trial, in which all these notions come to play and the accused justifies his decision to murder the father of the nation in the name of the motherland.


Bharat Mata Gandhi murder trial Godse Legal subjectivity Oedipal alliance Psychoanalytic jurisprudence 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Birkbeck CollegeUniversity of LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.SOASUniversity of LondonLondonUK

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