05/23/2024, 01:04, Vienna  DEUTSCH / ENGLISH

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Leading articles

THE VIENNA PSYCHOANALYST wants to give not only already internationally established psychoanalysts, but also still unknown psychoanalysts the opportunity to post a self-written and not yet published article on the FrontPage of our online magazine!

Our Users then can leave comments, ask questions or discuss the articles in our forum. Our aim is to provide an international platform where for the first time anyone interested in psychoanalysis can exchange ideas on certain topics.
Articles are welcome in German and/ or English.

If you are interested, please send your article to

(For reasons of readability, the male form is used with personal names, however the female form is also always intended.)




In our interview series "in conversation with“, we will briefly present the authors of the leading articles. We want to give our users the opportunity to read the leading article from a different point of view.

This week we are very glad to welcome Omnia El Shakry from California, U.S.A.:

Undergraduate studies in psychology at the American University in Cairo, followed by a Master of Arts in Near Eastern Studies at New York University and then an MA and PhD in History at Princeton University. My doctoral thesis was revised and published as The Great Social Laboratory: Subjects of Knowledge in Colonial and Postcolonial Egypt (2007). Since 2002, a professor at the University of California, Davis, teaching world history and modern Middle East history. Latest books: Gender and Sexuality in Islam (ed. 2016) and The Arabic Freud: Psychoanalysis and Islam in Modern Egypt (2017).

DWP: What led you to deal with psychoanalysis, respectively with Freud and his achievements?

Omnia El Shakry: As an undergraduate at the American University in Cairo, I studied psychology and had a keen interest in psychopathology— particularly in the relationship between schizophrenia and language, and more generally, in the anti-psychiatry movement. At that time, I read Sigmund Freud, as well as texts by feminist psychoanalysts such as Juliet Mitchell. In addition, due to personal difficulties, I sought a variety of forms of psychotherapy and found that I loved the dyadic intensity of the clinical space. In fact, I loved it so much that I had initially planned on going to graduate school to become a clinical psychologist, but my life ultimately took a different turn.

DWP: Have you ever undergone psychoanalysis?

Omnia El Shakry: I would say yes, but not in a traditional sense. I was in treatment with a psychoanalyst in New York for a few years. We met twice on a weekly basis and it was an incredibly intense process although it may not have met the requirements of a “proper” analysis  (i.e. 4–5 times a week on the couch).

DWP: If you had the opportunity to talk to Sigmund Freud, what would be the topic?
Are there any specific questions?

Omnia El Shakry: There would be so many things to discuss. But I think I would ask him about Beyond the Pleasure Principle and his thoughts on repetition compulsion and about whether there might be an “analytical” compulsion to repeat, in terms of returning to the same sort of patients and cases again and again.

DWP: Fabric or leather couch?

Omnia El Shakry: I like the idea of leather, but I prefer fabric.

DWP: Bruno Bettelheim emphasized the importance of fairy tales in childhood. Will you tell us your favorite fairy tale? And do you see parallels to your own adult life?

Omnia El Shakry: I’m not sure about fairy tales, but I am extremely partial to two special myths: The first is the myth of Persephone, who was abducted by Hades and taken to the underworld; having eaten pomegranate seeds she was commanded to live in the underworld a portion of the year. In the retelling of the myth the months spent in the underworld become the basis for the bleakness of winter, whereas in the months when Persephone is reunited with her mother Demeter, harvest and plenitude abound. The second is the myth of Arachne who challenged Athena in a weaving contest, and, because of her talent, was transformed by her into a spider.

Together these myths reveal the duality at the heart of life (bleakness and plenitude, hubris and spite), the desire to defy the Gods, and the possibility of human metamorphosis. Also, the mere existence of spiders and winter, for me, always meant we experience myths as part of our daily lives.

DWP: I dream, …

Omnia El Shakry: We are surrounded by wars and yet I dream of a world without war. It is an impossible dream, I fear.

DWP: What do you find good or particularly good about psychoanalysis and is there anything you do not like about it?

Omnia El Shakry: What I appreciate most about psychoanalysis is the insistence upon the presence of the unconscious and the ultimate unknowability of the human subject, coupled with a radical openness and ethical commitment to the Other. At the same time, there is a tension within psychoanalysis, namely that although some theories emphasize the opacity of human beings, others aspire to the transparency and knowability of humans - a dangerous tendency that has the potential to lead psychoanalysis towards being taken advantage of by political authority.

DWP: Do you have a favorite Freud - quote?

Omnia El Shakry: I will choose two, if I may:

“Indeed it is a prominent feature of unconscious processes that they are indestructible. In the unconscious nothing can be brought to an end, nothing is past or forgotten.” Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams, SE, V, p. 577.

“If we are to take it as a truth that knows no exception that everything living dies for internal reasons—becomes inorganic once again— then we shall be compelled to say that ‘the aim of all life is death’ and, looking backwards, that ‘inanimate things existed before living ones.’” Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle, SE XVIII, p. 38.  

DWP:  Are there other psychoanalysts, in addition to Sigmund Freud, who you like to study?

Omnia El Shakry: Of course! I enjoy reading Melanie Klein, Jacques Lacan, and Wilfred Bion. Right now, I am reading the works of André Green and Mahmud Sami-Ali, both of whom were born in Egypt in the 1920s.

Thank you very much for this conversation, we are already looking forward to your leading article!

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