Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Religious Studies

First Advisor

Loriliai Biernacki

Second Advisor

Greg Johnson

Third Advisor

Najeeb Jan


This thesis examines the Hindu notion of karma as an etiological factor in the development of individuals of non-normative sexualities in classical Indian medicine. Sweet and Zwilling (1993) argue that Foucault was mistaken in arguing that the notion of homosexuals as a distinct "species" of human being originated in the nineteenth century West, locating a similar phenomenon in Ayurvedic texts penned two millennia earlier. Here, I suggest that their analysis overlooks the critical etiological factor of karma, and that to understand the formation of sexualized subjectivity in an early Indian context we may productively use Giorgio Agamben's discussion of the Foucaultian "apparatus." The notion of karma, of circumstance linked to one's past deeds and past lives, is itself an apparatus. Further, I propose that medicalization arises from an ontological issue key to our understanding of karma as an apparatus in the formation of subjectivity as articulated in early Indian medical texts.