04/22/2019, 02:48, Vienna  DEUTSCH / ENGLISH

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05/10/2019 - 05/12/2019

open to public
Organizer: Psychoanalysis and Politics
Venue: Swedish Psychoanalytical Association
Västerlånggatan 60
111 29 Stockholm
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“I am under no illusion”, wrote Freud (1912-1913) “that in putting forward these attempted explanations I am laying myself open to the charge of endowing modern savages with a subtlety in their mental activities which exceeds all probability. It seems to me quite possible, however, that the same may be true of our attitude towards the psychology of those races that have remained at the animistic level as it is true of our attitude towards the mental life of children, which we adults no longer understand and whose fullness and delicacy of feeling we have in consequence so greatly underestimated” (98-99). There appears to be a double movement in this passage, a movement of distancing in the contrast between the more and the less developed, alongside a movement of approximation. As Frosh (2013) puts it, “psychoanalysts often draw on the language of the ‘primitive’ to refer to ‘unreasoning’ elements of people’s psychic lives. Thus, a notion that someone might be evincing a ‘primitive fantasy of destruction’ is a very familiar one, but what is not acknowledged is that this terminology not only has its roots in a colonial opposition between ‘primitive’ and ‘civilised’, but it also reproduces this division ‘unconsciously’ when it is employed.” Edward Said (2003) has famously emphasized the opposite movement, Freud’s refusal to erect an insurmountable barrier between ‘the primitive’ and ‘the civilized’, Freud as “an overturner and a re-mapper of accepted or settled geographies and genealogies” (27). Late in Freud’s theories, in Khanna’s words, “the “scene of memory” always necessitates a consideration of the splits that come to be acknowledged in the ego, which are like the interferences caused by the memory’s insistent confrontation with a false unified and unifying sense of history and the subject” – “The age of colonial travel and exploration was that of Freud’s youth. That of his old age was the moment of Nazi suppression. The future, to which he referred when writing of his threatened children, would be that of the split and defensive ego, when a nation-state would be unable to exist without rupture and beyond betrayal” (64).

‘Colonial fantasies’ referred to in the title may be understood as fantasies to the effect that the other, and the other’s territory, is yours to take and yours to denounce because inferior – less efficient, less rational and/or less complete in some sense. These inferior others and their domains may be eroticised. To Sander Gilman, “Central to the model and to the understanding of the Other is the definition of the Other in sexual terms, for no factor in nineteenth-century self-definition was more powerful than the sense of sexual pathology” (216). “The Other’s pathology is revealed in her anatomy, and the black and the prostitute are both bearers of the stigmata of sexual difference and thus pathology. […] The “white man’s burden,” his sexuality and its control, is displaced onto the need to control the sexuality of the Other, the Other as sexualized female” (1985, 107). In Freud’s writing, to Gilman, the rhetoric of race was excised only to reappear in his construction of gender “through the assumption of the neutrality of the definition of the (male) scientist” (1993, 40). “Freud [1926e] explains that “we need not feel ashamed” about our lack of knowledge of female sexuality, he metaphorizes woman as the “dark continent,” and in this blurring of her specificity he transfers the shame that “we need not feel” about our lack of knowledge onto her” (Khanna, 2003, 49). H. M. Stanley introduced the metaphor of the “dark continent” in his explorer’s narrative of Africa, and here it comes to stand for the other of man and of Europe.

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