The Kamasutra is best known in the West for its scandalous celebration of unbridled sensuality. Yet, there is much, much more to it; embedded in the text is a vision of the city founded on art and aesthetic pleasure. In Foucault and the "Kamasutra", Sanjay K. Gautam lays out the nature and origin of this iconic Indian text and engages in the first serious reading of its relationship with Foucault.
Gautam shows how closely intertwined the history of erotics in Indian culture is with the history of theater-aesthetics grounded in the discourse of love, and Foucault provides the framework for opening up an intellectual horizon of Indian thought. To do this, Gautam looks to the history of three inglorious characters in classical India: the courtesan and her two closest male companions—her patron, the dandy consort; and her teacher and advisor, the dandy guru. Foucault’s distinction between erotic arts and the science of sexuality drives Gautam’s exploration of the courtesan as a symbol of both sexual-erotic and aesthetic pleasure. In the end, by entwining together Foucault’s works on the history of sexuality in the West and the classical Indian texts on eros, Gautam transforms our understanding of both, even as he opens up new ways of investigating erotics, aesthetics, gender relations, and subjectivity.