Critical Theory from the Global South

Psychoanalysis and Politics

Fall 2019


This colloquium will address the notion of extimacy (extimité) both as a psychoanalytic concept and as a methodological tool for rethinking the multiple north/south binaries according to which the reception of Critical Theory is conventionally structured. As such, we will revisit traditional psychoanalytic theory, particularly through Freud and Lacan, and as well, explore the status of psychoanalysis in an international, global context.

Lacan maintained that the task of psychoanalysis is fundamentally political and illiberal: the relation between social institutions and the unconscious inform a political topology which requires a psychoanalytic act, a scilicet, to incite a new form of knowledge; one that inverts the relationship between truth and knowledge and frees the former from the mechanisms of enjoyment (jouissance) that dictate relations of exploitation in society. After 1968, Lacan turned to Marx and Freud to analyze the regimes of jouissance that structure the social bond (with his concept of surplus-enjoyment (Mehrlust) fashioned according to Marx’s concept of surplus-value (Mehrwert) and Freud’s notion of pleasure (Lust). For psychoanalysis, the concept of jouissance is not simply about individual solipsistic enjoyment, a result of the attrition and break-down of social bonds and of the community, but rather is precisely the site of an engagement with an Other, with the social link. In this light, psychoanalysis does not aim at liberating desires, but at exposing the complicity between certain desires and their interpretation, i.e. psychoanalysis aims to uncover the mechanisms and the phantasy that articulate unconscious desires in a specific dispositif of satisfaction. Through its method of analysis and interpretation, psychoanalysis directs the subject to the problematic kernel of the unconscious mode of production. Freud had already introduced this fundamental psychoanalytic insight: that the dialectics of repression that govern enjoyment are always-already social. The unconscious, then, is a topological construct that disturbs the Innenwelt and Umwelt, the inner and outer domains, and is irreducible to nature or culture. The unconscious is extimate, it is located in the gap that generates the external and internal. Within this theoretical framework in mind, we would like to bring attention to the different iterations of psychoanalysis in the non-European context. The workshop may be structured around the following themes:

1) What is the psychoanalytic corpus in the margins? This influence is evident, for example, in the work of Arabic-speaking psychoanalysts of the past century (Fethi ben Salama, Mustapha Safouan, Chawki Azouri, and Adnan Huballah). What concept of culture emerges from psychoanalysis and what are its iterations in the Global South? How is psychoanalysis taken up both theoretically and practically in Latin America and the Middle East?

2) How can the extimate—the presence of the social within the unconscious, inform the unconscious production of colonial tropes with respect to non-European cultures? What does psychoanalysis propose with regards to the nature/culture divide? How do the particular psychoanalytic interventions from the margins articulate this modern problematic?

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