ISRF Independent Scholar Fellow
ISRF Independent Scholar Fellow
Sarath Jakka is interested in exploring mental health concerns outside the protocols that populate diagnostic and statistical manuals. By attending to the recursive and paradoxical aspects of consciousness and feeling that figure in various guises across the eastern contemplative traditions, psychoanalysis, philosophy of science and
literary theory, he hopes to develop an interdisciplinary style of engagement that can set out the blindspots of reductionist and objective approaches to understanding human behaviour while simultaneously throwing into relief the therapeutic,
aesthetic and communal possibilities that come into play while listening to what the philosopher Henri Bergson referred to as the ‘duration’ of inner life. He is currently training as a psychotherapist.
Sarath completed his PhD in Early Modern Studies from the University of Kent,
Canterbury and the University of Porto in October 2018. His doctoral project was a part of the TEEME (Text & Event in Early Modern Europe) PhD consortium and funded by the European Union through an Erasmus Mundus Joint Doctoral
Fellowship. His dissertation looked at the relations between utopian writing and seventeenth-century colonial efforts, focusing on the colonial promotional literature produced for a failed English colony in Madagascar.
Sarath is currently a fellow at the ICI Berlin (Institute for Cultural Inquiry) as a part of their research program on ‘Reduction’ (2020-22). For his ISRF Independent Scholar Fellowship, he will be hosted for a year by ICI Berlin as an affiliated fellow until October 2023.
Due to the empirical emphasis in psychological research, the positive – that which can be controlled, tested, and measured – aspects of psychotherapeutic practice are foregrounded. While there is a great deal of dissatisfaction with this emphasis among therapists, there is difficulty in developing a rigorous language that can counter this emphasis and focus on phenomena that are unamenable to measure yet play a constitutive role in the therapeutic encounter. Experienced therapists often articulate notions such as trust, care, empathy, relationality, and generosity to describe the therapeutic process. Such notions are usually demonstrated through case studies and anecdotal retellings but have little conceptual rigour. The difficulty in developing precise positive accounts need not be a theoretical liability (or the reasons for the disavowal of such an inquiry) and can form the basis for a qualitative rather than quantitative examination. There is a need for a philosophical examination – a conceptual illumination – of the notions and qualities involved in the therapeutic setting. This proposal puts forward a case for looking at the phenomena involved in the therapeutic encounter – those strategies and attitudes that form the basis for the unique relation between therapist and patient – through a negative lens i.e. as negative concepts and negative capability. Since both the therapist and user have to discover themselves and each other through revising and loosening the resistance of previously held notions, feelings and attitudes, the discovery of a therapeutic space is often intermingled with negative acts, acts of renouncing, erasure, removal and disappearance. In order to develop such an account in the therapeutic context, it can be fruitful to redescribe the psychotherapeutic encounter through intellectual projects across the humanities which have been preoccupied with negative capability – the capacity to cope with, exist in, and actively embrace uncertainty, ambivalence and indeterminacy.