Ryan Artrip, The Politics of Psychoanalysis after Postmodernism: Repression, Power and Imagination

In this paper, I trace the role that imagination has played in the history of psychoanalysis with particular regard to Herbert Marcuse’s unique challenge to the reality principle, modern production, and the culture of productivity. By historically situating psychoanalytical theory within the context of the dialectical ideal found in certain strands of Frankfurt School critical theory, I diagnose the Western imagination today as being relegated beyond the point of political impotence. I argue that among many other institutional conglomerates, the culture industry confines human imagination to a coded set of possibilities which uniformly demand a productivist reality principle. Assuming this function is excessively repressive and purposeful, is the potential of the Western imagination so important that it needs repressing? Thus, this paper also conducts a brief overview and critique of the notion of repression from Freud to Foucault, which interrogates the concept in terms of its value as a continued component in theoretical political discourse.

Although the concept has lost much of its potency since Foucault introduced a new kind of disciplinary power, which was productive/stimulative rather than prohibitive, repressive functions are (to his own admission) still very much active throughout the global political order. In particular, I will examine the continued repressive (but also productive) entertainment industry. I will evaluate the following: 1) The political situation at the ‘end of history’ in which one takes on a kind of postmodern sensibility, unable to imagine a future (‘it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism’). 2) The cultural and political conditions for liberating imagination and the conditions for such a liberation to be desirable.

Adina Balint-Babos, “L’experience de l’affect”, Freud et la litterature (WG Sebald and Annie Ernaux)

L’expérience de l’affect » n’est pas une lecture psychanalytique d’Austerlitz (2001) de W.G. Sebald ou de Retour à Yvetot (2013) d’Annie Ernaux, mais bien une étude des « échos » qui résonnent entre les textes littéraires de deux écrivains des XXe et XXIe siècles et la pensée de Freud. Rappelant que l’affect est au cœur de la découverte de l’inconscient dans la psychanalyse freudienne, je propose de m’en tenir à un succinct « inventaire » des figurations de l’affect dans les récits de Sebald et Ernaux, et tenterai de rendre compte du double fond affectif du langage dans l’expérience poétique: émotionnel et de représentation. La honte, la colère, l’angoisse, la violence, la sensation de mourir, le deuil, la douleur… Mais aussi la joie, la tendresse, la jubilation figurent les variations de l’affect entre vécu et mise en mots. Pour leur part, W.G. Sebald et Annie Ernaux qu’est-­‐ce qu’ils entendent par « mouvements affectifs » ? Le langage qui lie les souvenirs à l’événement les ayant provoqués est-­‐il une simple opération intellectuelle ? Quelle part à l’affect ? L’exploration de ces questions sera entendue comme un prolongement des observations de Freud sur la théorie de l’affect, et permettra d’établir une typologie des affects dans Austerlitz et Retour à Yvetot. La référence à certaines métaphores, en particulier celle de « l’archive », fréquemment utilisée par Freud pour évoquer le fonds de souvenirs enfouis dans l’inconscient d’un sujet, me conduira à discuter le legs de Freud tel qu’il est repris et travaillé dans le domaine de la littérature. Pour conclure, j’avancerai l’hypothèse que les analogies entre l’expérience psychanalytique de l’affect et la création littéraire invitent à connaître mieux les articulations de l’homme et des œuvres qu’il produit.

Tamara Bibby, Orange Peel and Chocolates: Hatred and Gratitude in Learning From/While Teaching

The conference call invites us to ponder Freud’s legacy and I do so from an assumption that it is directly relevant to educators. His work, with its focus on particular forms of personal learning, stands in strange relation to more formal sites of education which would like to have a more literal and deliberate focus on, and control, of learning and learners (see for e.g. Britzman, 2004, 2011).

This paper will use the work of Winnicott, particularly his work on potential space and creativity (1971, also Ogden, 2009; Kuhn, 2013), to think about the difficulty of identifying oneself as a teacher and the experience of being an object that (perhaps) survives and is (perhaps) survived in learning/teaching contexts. As the tentative title suggests this might include a survival of one’s own and other learners’ hate (Winnicott, 1947; Matthews, 2007), and the difficulties of (in)gratitude. I will consider these themes in relation to personal/professional experiences including my current experiences of teaching in the academy after ten years of teaching in Primary schools, and the story of Shanhrul, a boy I encountered during a research project and whose nine-­‐year-­‐old presence continues to haunt me.

As Taubman (2012) has recently suggested though, such reflections simultaneously insist that educators pay attention to the autobiographical ground upon which they rest: parents (mine were both teachers) and ‘the intimate dead’ – my family’s history of learning and their hatred of learning. What might it mean for the child of a teacher and a lecturer to be a teacher of young children? What happens when such a one is transposed to the university to work with other teachers of young children? And to research others who continue to do what she once did? How might such experiencings be shaped?

Victoria I. Burke, Hermes, God of Recognition: Hegel with Lacan

The ancient Greek god governing trade and the market was Hermes, a trickster and a thief, the god of luck and seduction. He represented thieving and larceny, but also ingenious charm.[1] He was a messenger. He was also charged with transporting the dead to the underworld. Only Hermes knew the way back to the living from the underworld. As such, he is also associated with the transgression of boundaries.[2] Hermes represents a complex of concepts that are interesting to consider in relation to the epistemological concept of recognition. With Hermes in mind, we should consider recognition to be, not only an epistemological, but also an economic concept. Hermes represents safety in translation, exchange.

Post-structuralist psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan locates the Hegelian concept of mutual recognition within post-Freudian territory by arguing that, since self-consciousness’s identity becomes actualized through the reflection of another, it is an imagined fantasy. We simply cannot assume the first-person position of the subjectivity of another. So our own reflection within it is elusive to us, imagined only.

For Frederic Jameson, it is through fantasy that the subject tries to satisfy its desire to integrate its image of itself with its image of itself in the world of language for others: the integration of the Imaginary and the Symbolic is a certain “line of fiction.”[3]

The task of this paper is to analyze the uncertainty of translation with the mythological figure of Hermes in mind. Translation into a medium of exchange (the marketplace) involves a relation to what Lacan called the “petit object a”. The petit object a is a site within the Symbolic order of language that, like one’s reflection in the subjectivity of another, is in principle as inaccessible to reflection as it is desired. With Hermes in mind, the petite object a is also a guide, a norm.


[1] Kerenyi, Kerl. Hermes: Guide of Souls. (Dallas, TX: Spring Publications, Inc, 1986), 33-34.

[2] Burkert, Walter. Greek Religion. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985), 158.

[3] Jameson, Frederic. “The Imaginary and Symbolic in Lacan: Marxism, Psychoanalytic Criticism, and the Problem of the Subject.” Yale French Studies. No. 55/56, 1977. p. 353.

Deborah Britzman, “An unexpected novelty”: Reading Freud’s technique papers with the arrival of pedagogy.

It is indeed difficult to read across Freud’s work without bumping up against the concept, destiny, contingencies and nature of education: his and ours. And woven throughout Freud’s papers, education takes on greater pressure: signifying not the child but the adult who bears the consequences of intrapsychical design, intersubjective relations of authority, knowledge, love, and cultural conflicts of group psychology. Freud thought that the practices of education might be one future for the application of psychoanalysis. Yet he also proposed a problem with such a future, namely education’s obligation to inhibit the drives and involve itself in cultural frustration and neurosis.

This paper then analyzes the evolutions of the concept of education in Freud’s writing—from Bildung (the bringing up of culture and life) to Nacherziehumg (after-education)- to look more closely into the fate of psychoanalytic approaches to education. Attention will be given to Freud’s (1932)  “New Introductory Lectures to psychoanalysis” where he raised, with some ambivalence, the greatest challenge the field of education faces, namely: “the power of an insubordinate instinctual constitution” (SE 22, p. 149). With this resistance, Freud rethought the purpose of education: “it must be given another and higher aim, liberated from the prevailing demands of society” (150).  It is this conflict, between the drives and sublimation, that brings Freud to grapple with the great unsolvable problem of education. The paper then develops two theoretical problems: Today, how to narrate this education as a link to the problem of freedom and alterity? Why think, along with Freud, of education that is not yet education?

Clint Burnham, Does the Internet have an Unconscious?

In this address I propose to use the tools and concepts of psychoanalysis to address contemporary internet cultures, focusing on the concept of the unconscious. I will begin with Freud’s writings on the unconscious in The Interpretation of Dreams (1899) and his various technical and metapsychological papers (including “The Unconscious” [1915], “Observations on Love in Transference” [1915], “Fetishism” [1927], and “Negation” [1925]). For Freud, the unconscious is both the repository of repressed traumas and desires and the source of symptoms, of uncontrolled actions. But when Freud is revised by Lacan, in his seminars and the texts collected in Écrits (1966), the unconscious is now, on the one hand, “structured like a language” (or subject to the binary logic of signifier and signified, and read by Lacan very much in a way that emphasizes the role of puns, translation, and metaphor and metonymy), but also “ex-timate,” outside the subject, located in the big Other of the Law and the Nom de père (the name of the father but also the no of the father – and, les non-dupes errent , or the non-duped make mistakes). Lacan’s unconscious is not interior, not primordial, but exterior, and social. Continuing with this very particular trajectory of psychoanalysis (the Lacanian tradition, let us say), Slavoj Žižek’s unconscious is now a formulation that has to do with the “obscene underside” of the Law, of the social: or the notion that social norms (the big Other) depend upon their transgression – illustrated in an example Žižek returns to again and again (in Metastases of Enjoyment [1994],The Parallax View [2006], etc.) from the film A Few Good Men, where U.S. Marines kill one of their own under an unofficially sanctioned “code red.” But it is also worth examining thinkers who have theorized the notion of the unconscious in a manner outside of (but sympathetic to) Freudian psychoanalysis. Thus Walter Benjamin’s concept of the “optical unconscious,” developed in his “Little History of Photography” (1931) holds that photography shows the unconscious of physical actions (a horse’s or human’s gait, as in Eadweard Muybridge’s photographs); the feminist art historian Rosalind Krauss, in her 1993 book The Optical Unconscious, argues in dialogue with Benjamin that, rather, the concept of the unconscious in a more Freudian sense can be used to construct a counter-history of modern art. Finally, the Marxist critic Fredric Jameson, in his influential 1981 study The Political Unconscious, argued that a given social field will have its own repressed (utopian) wishes, which are then realized in cultural objects like novels or films, which enact an “imaginary resolution of a real contradiction.” My reading of these theorists, then, will enable an encounter with contemporary digital and internet cultures and subcultures via psychoanalysis. In what way, for example, do the machines with which we increasingly access the internet, our smartphones, that lie nestled next to our genitals in our pants pockets, contain our sexual desires and wishes? How is email, or even better, spam, to be understood as the Lacanian “letter that always arrives at its destination”? How are trolls and pornographic internet subcultures (4Chan) the “obscene underside” of the proper world of e-commerce and governmentality? Is the internet unconscious an optical one – full of images that reveal more than we wish, through Google Earth and webcams – or, more frighteningly, a political unconscious that, with its Taliban beheading videos but also crowdsourced social media revolutions (Twitter and Tahrir Square), requires a psychoanalytic account to fully understand its paradoxical dimensions of libido and trauma. This, finally, will be my argument: that it is only by being able to work through the Freudian tradition that we can understand our current fixations with online culture: not an addiction but a repeating, not a hard drive but a death drive, not a virtual reality but a fantasy that is more Real than reality.

Tyler Carson, Psychoanalysis and Queer Negativity

The origin point for any contemporary theory of sexuality can usually be traced back to the radical work of psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud. Queer theory has utilized Freud’s concept of the death drive to develop a critique of sexuality that highlights (and politicizes) its anti-social dimension. Contemporary theories of sexuality also draw on Jacques Lacan’s influential semiotic framework in order to situate queerness both within and outside of the Symbolic order. Using the work of Bersani, Edelman, and Halberstam this paper will trace the trajectory of this critique and highlight how these texts shift and move towards, or away, from Freudian and Lacanian thought.

Sheila Cavanagh, Transsexualist Jouissance

This paper is presented in the spirit of de-pathologizing transexuality in Lacanian psychoanalysis and to call for more progressive theorizing using Lacan’s later works on sexuation.  While most Lacanian writing on transsexuality has followed the writings of Chatherine Millot (1990) who contends that male to female transsexuality is psychotic, this paper explores the premise that transsexuality is not reducible to psychosis.  Transsexuals may — like those of us who are not transsexual — be psychotic, but they are not necessarily so and can also be what Lacan counts as the “normal” neurotic.  The push-toward-Woman was not, for Lacan, unique to psychosis or to transsexuality.  It was, in fact, the basis upon which he developed his theory of sexuation.  Transsexuality is one way to experience jouissance and to negotiate a relation to the Other’s desire that is not nullifying to the subject.  Using Lacan’s notion of the sinthome, I argue that transsexualist jouissance can be an active and creative re-working of a symptom that involves not an ‘acting out’, but rather a ‘passage to the act.’ For Lacan, the passage to the act enables the patient to loosen his or her identification with the Other’s desire and to forge an identification with his symptom — hence Zizek’s urging to “Enjoy your symptom!”  In the clinic of transsexuality a sinthome can be orchestrated by a change in gender pronoun, a name-change, hormone treatments, sex-reassingment surger(y)ies, an autobiographical account of one’s gender journey, etc.  In such cases one lives creatively — with a difference — as a sexuated subject.

Eric Cazdyn, The Worldly Clinic

The Worldly Clinic refers to a project that examines the relation between theory and practice in various cross-cultural and interdisciplinary contexts. What it means to be clinical signifies one thing in the medical sciences and another in the humanities, one thing in the West and another in the East. I view these mis-matches over the role of the clinic among disciplines and cultures as a pass-key to a whole series of intellectual projects, ones that explore the inextricable relations among the cultural, political and psychological realms.  In this talk I propose to mobilize this question of the clinic by focusing on the psychoanalytic clinic–the one clinic that is located halfway between the humanities and medicine and that has a very different history in North America compared to other parts of the world. From the very beginning psychoanalysis has factored into its discourse this inescapable problem of the clinic, that is, the complex relation of theory and practice–thus leading to the almost universal principle that every analyst must be analyzed. This principle is not only about training more capable analysts, but also (and Freud was, indeed, the first to recognize this) engaging more effectively the very problems of psychoanalytic theory. Or we can go one step further and argue that when an analyst is engaging a patient in the clinic, he or she is theorizing–and the particular, long-term relationship between analyst and patient (in which their very relationship itself becomes the practical material to be analyzed, or in this case theorized) is an ideal place to engage this principle of the clinic.  This fascinating knot of theory and practice in the clinic, however, has been regrettably undervalued in the recent history of psychoanalysis (in which academics tend to focus on the theory and clinicians on the practice). And I see this same disregard at work in several other fields. In other words, when theory and practice are discretely configured it is impossible to understand practice as a theoretical act, or theory as a practice…indeed, it is impossible to mobilize the full force of the clinic. I view this promise of the clinic, therefore, as the crucible of contemporary thought.

Michelle Duncan, Freud Contra Wagner

Given Freud’s well-documented ambivalence toward music, my project reevaluates why Freud sought the contribution and expertise of key musical figures during the early years of psychoanalysis. Through an examination of Freud’s work together with Viennese musicologist, Max Graf—father of Freud’s infamous patient, “Little Hans”—I propose that Freud was far more influenced by opera than scholars have previously assumed. The intellectual cooperation between Freud and Graf can be seen in the conversations of the Wednesday Society, and the essays both authors produced between 1905 and 1910. Given that Freud gave Graf his most important text on the theater, Psychopathische Personen auf der Buhne, while or shortly before Graf was writing “Richard Wagner und das dramatische Schaffens” (1906) and “Probleme des dramatischen Schaffens” (1907) suggests that Freud wrote this text as a template for Graf’s thinking about representation in theater in general and opera in particular. This is both methodologically and historically significant because it alters the vantage point from which to assess Freud’s understanding of theatrical representation, shifting focus away from the spoken theater of Shakespeare and toward the Gesamtkunstwerk of Wagner. This is not to say that Freud was a closet Wagnerian; on the contrary, Freud wrote about representation in theater as a veiled response to the Wagnerism of his time, explicitly formulating his theory about theatrical representation after Aristotle in an attempt to structure or at least reframe Graf’s thinking about modern theater and opera. Indeed, the vision of culture that Freud begins to articulate during the first decade of the twentieth- century is largely a concerned response to Richard Wagner’s pervasive influence, both in the theater and in the theatrical constellation of the body politic.

Hannah Dyer and David K. Seitz, The Dead Stay in our hearts because we love them – aesthetic reparation in monsieur lazhar

For Melanie Klein, the work of creativity restores psychic impressions left on the subject from a propensity to wish damage on the loved object. For Klein, the urge to repair hate, to alleviate its weight, is what drives one to contemplate and to create. Art repairs; it serves to manage guilt and it is able to tolerate conflicting and bad affects. The stress of love and hate in psychic governance leaves impressions which are worked out symbolically, both consciously and not, in creative endeavors. To this end, this paper turns to Philippe Falardeau’s elegant 2011 film Monsieur Lazhar, which follows the psychic and ethical negotiations of Bachir Lazhar, an Algerian refugee claimant turned Montréal substitute schoolteacher. An aesthetic engagement with the film, inspired by scholarship on the psychic life of aesthetic production, suggests that Monsieur Lazhar animates a reparative story of the emotional life of transgenerational conversation about subjectivities made through trauma and loss. Further, our reading of the film employs psychoanalytic addresses of trauma: An unexpected event that causes the subject to reenact, through symptoms, its effect. Lazhar enters the lives of his students in the depths of winter after their beloved permanent teacher hangs herself in her classroom. While parents and school officials insist that students “get better”, maintain academic performance, and speak of their loss only with a professional psychologist, Lazhar takes a radically distinct approach to their trauma. Having lost his own family to politically motivated attacks on his dissident wife in Algeria, Lazhar subtly, gradually makes space for students to speak openly about death, loss, difference and violence. We argue that Monsieur Lazhar proffers a challenging insight: Both grief and the work of repair transpire in a recurrent, non-linear fashion, in excess of sanctioned narratives of belonging, progress, and citizenship that seek to cleave “here” from “there” and “now” from “then.”

Charmaine Eddy, Freud’s Legacy to Race: A Symptomatology of Skin

Speaking rationally about race is not something that is part of our everyday practice or our critical discourse. We dismiss race as a biological fiction and yet we hang on to racial and ethnic categories as the foundation of distinctive political and social categories. We collapse multiple, and often contradictory, ideas of cultural, national, and ethnic difference into a singular racial term, which we then project onto others, effectively denying them the “difference” of their difference. Our cultural and critical practices celebrate alternative categories of difference – hybridity, multiculturalism, métissage, creolization – at times effectively fetishizing them as spectacles of difference, while at the same time they function to those of us who are white as ways to mask what an acknowledgement/denial of racial otherness costs at the level of our own subjectification.

This paper will return to Freud’s “Fragments of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria” in order to argue that there is something “symptomatic” in our discourses about race, in that issues and questions about race are often posed in a conceptual framework that cannot sustain them. Something gets explained away as we speak about race, while something else emerges to be put in its place. Freud’s legacy to race in this essay is the development of the framework for a symptomatology of the morphology of the body. The suppression of a discourse of sexual trauma begins to surface on and through Dora’s body, which Freud then reads as the place where aggression and narcissism merge and where Dora can both recognize and deny something about herself in relation to her sexuality.

Read primarily through morphological characteristics – and conventionally through what we might wish to call the culture of skin – race is also a projection onto the surface of the body of a more complicated relational system of fantasy, desire and aggression. Working with Fanon’s articulation of race through “epidermalization,” as well as with Nella Larsen’s Passing and William Faulkner’s Light in August (literary representations of racial passing), this paper will pursue Freud’s legacy to race as a symptomatology of a culture of skin.

Christine Evans, Drive as Sublime Object

Relying on both Freudian and Lacanian conceptions of drive, this paper explores drive as it relates to both love and artistic expression. Taking as its starting point Renata Salecl’s assertion that “what attracts us in the Other is… not simply his or her desire but drive – [that] which forces the Other into some activity, regardless of how painful this activity could be for him or her” (52-53), the paper questions what is at stake in either assuming one’s own or admiring/loving another’s drive, particularly in a ‘liberated’ contemporary context which is nonetheless indebted to Freud’s notions of drive. The paper queries what it means to consider drive as an intermediate category of attraction and love, thereby extending the subject’s potential for fascination beyond the familiar (Lacanian) realm of the Other’s desire; as such, the paper approaches drive as coercive and variable, vacillating between primordial insistence/demand and culturally-coded symbolization.

Central to my analysis is the distinction between Freudian and Lacanian formulations of drive, as well as their corresponding interpretations of sublimation. In both Freudian and Lacanian accounts of sublimation, artistry is considered an exemplary means of communicating partial drives which are either socially prohibited or, through the initiation into symbolization (privation, castration, and gendering), have somehow escaped the subject’s conscious recognition. However, given that artistic expression entails a specific variant of sublimation which accounts for the libidinal object’s orientation in the fantasy structure, I explore how a combination of Freudian and Lacanian approaches to sublimation can create inconsistencies in the perceived relationship between drive, sublimation, and attraction. In Freudian sublimation, the drive is directed away from the libidinal object (a beautiful woman, for example) and towards an object of expression (such as a romantic sonnet); the drive therefore therapeutically transfers its attachment from one forbidden/ dangerous object to another culturally/socially sanctioned object, such that the artistic expression eventually supplants its libidinal origin. Conversely, Lacanian sublimation ‘retains’ the enigma of the object, such that only the modality of the subject, or its orientation in fantasy, changes – although no proper relocation of investment occurs between distinct libidinal and cultural objects. Does a wholly Freudian focus close the drive cycle prematurely by positing that romantic recognition can constitute the artist’s ultimate sublimation? This paper explores the possibility that, if sublimation is truly the ‘happy ending’ of drive, then this Freudian closure of the drive cycle transforms drive itself into the sublime object.

Patricia Elliot, Lacanian Analysis and Transsexuality: Take 2

One of the most important legacies of Freud is to be found in the art of listening to the unconscious productions of its subjects: what Lacan named the discourse of analysis. Based on Freud’s method as discovered in his early work with hysterics, and developed over the course of his life in writings on technique, and in distinctions drawn between psychiatry and psychoanalysis, analytic discourse remains central to what is specific and vital about psychoanalysis. In Lacanian theory, analytic discourse represents the inverse of a discourse of mastery which is dominated by the one supposed to know, and a turn away from the discourse of bureaucracy which is dominated by the privileging of knowledge itself. Lacan’s discourses help us make sense of Freud’s insistence on eschewing any presumed knowledge on the part of the analyst in favour of privileging the words of the analysand – a model of making sense of the other that can be applied to other aspects of social life outside the clinic.

This paper investigates one example of how the discourse of analysis works, or fails to work, in the field of transsexuality, particularly in the theorization of transsexuality that is psychoanalytically informed. The history of the relationship of psychoanalysis to transsexuals was described as exceedingly fraught in 1974 when Person and Ovsey remarked that resistance on the part of trans persons to psychoanalysis was a reasonable response to patronizing, moralizing, and stigmatizing attitudes held toward them held by many analysts. This observation has more recently been reiterated by psychoanalyst and theorist Patricia Gherovici who writes: “In both subtle and brutal ways, psychoanalysis has a history of coercive heteronormatization and pathologization of non-normative sexualities and genders.”i Indeed, as Gherovici and I have both pointed out, until very recently, many analysts have been either threatened or puzzled by transsexuals, and often have been unsuccessful in concealing their transphobic views. Moreover, she suggests that this transphobic history is “based on a selective reinterpretation of the Freudian texts” or more forcefully, one based not only on selective rereadings, but on “reductive distortions” born of a “homophobic and transphobic history.”ii Her point is that psychoanalysis has much to offer when it manages to divest itself of its normalizing and discriminatory history. My point is that we are witnessing a second take on the relationship of psychoanalysis to transsexuality, one that displaces the established discourse of previous psychoanalytic interpretations, and that returns to a more suitable analytic discourse. Take 2 represents a return to this more valuable approach and to the development of a more promising understanding of trans embodiments and identities. This argument will be developed here with reference to several psychoanalytic theorists who have turned to Jacques Lacan’s theory of sexuation to investigate sexuality, subjectivity and desire in relation to transsexuality.

Angela Facundo, The Paranoid Imperative and Queer Reparative: Psychoanalysis and Timothy Findley’s The Wars

This paper demonstrates what psychoanalysis offers to the field of queer theory and its link to literary studies. Despite Tim Dean and Christopher Lane’s Homosexuality and Psychoanalysis, which brings together the once antagonistic positions of psychoanalysis and Foucauldian analysis, the presence of the former in queer theory is decreasing, especially since Eve Sedgwick’s death. Queer analysis employs two rhetorical strategies. The “anti-social” negative strategy works to undo identity categories in a nihilistic repudiation of futurity. A turn to the “reparative” borrows from the Kleinian vocabulary of reparation and is grounded in Sedgwick’s work, but this turn moves away from psychoanalysis toward the experience of political and public life. These divergent strategies mark a central split in queer theory that has perpetuated a resistance to psychoanalysis. I propose a queer reading practice that synthesizes such conceptual splitting, a practice characterized by an oscillation between what I call the paranoid imperative and queer reparative. In doing so, I reintroduce two drives in Freud’s thought, thinking through the primacy of the death drive and the necessity of the life drive and sorting out the terminological confusion between economic and dynamic binding. The paper’s second part performs my queer reading practice on Timothy Findley’s visually cathected novel, The Wars, exploring the status of the signifier after the pictorial turn and the dominance of identity politics. This close reading demonstrates the interplay between economic and dynamic binding and unbinding in the process of queer reading. In queer theory, thinking finds its rhythmic momentum in the revitalizing potentials of sexuality. Queer reading enjoys a knowledge that, in Jacqueline Rose’s words, is “not in possession of itself.” Psychoanalysis shows that being queer has less to do with identity than a particular way of attaching to objects, and that literature elaborates such attachments.

Lisa Farley and Aparna Mishra-Tarc, Drawing Trauma: The Visual Vocabulary of War

The field of child psychoanalysis is one of the greatest but lesser acknowledged contributions of Sigmund Freud. Positioning the child as the first little sex researcher of social life, Freud identified childhood as a generative site of human thought and existence. After his death in 1939, it is perhaps fitting that Freud’s legacy found complicated expression, among other sites, in the field of child psychoanalysis. But child psychoanalysis emerged also in the shadow of death on a massive scale, in the midst of a world at war. Indeed, the figure of the child emerged as a site of analytic importance in the shadow of profound loss: shattered foundations, terrifying aggression and radical helplessness.

Our presentation engages debates that emerged within the field of child psychoanalysis during the Second World War. We bring analytic insights produced in this historical context to bear on contemporary efforts to respond to children affected by legacies of mass violence and social conflict. We begin by turning to the psychoanalytic archive of childhood – itself affected by war – to trace the paper trail of documentation on the emotional situation of children affected by social trauma, meticulously gathered by child analysts, Anna Freud, Melanie Klein and D.W. Winnicott. From this clinical archive, we draw attention to the visual character of the child’s representations as testaments to unspeakable experiences that both resist thought and push at the edges of language.

We take note of these and other features of the psychoanalytic archive to offer analytical orientations to a contemporary case involving children’s efforts to represent and bear witness to atrocity at the highest courts of International law at The Hague. This remarkable case uses hundreds of drawings produced by children as legal evidence of mass violence committed across the border of Chad and Darfur. Engaging the visual testimony of the “tiniest witnesses” of Darfur, we suggest that psychoanalytic attention to the emotional significance of trauma poses an ethical challenge to socio-­‐legal theories of witnessing. Following the analytical orientations of child psychoanalysts, we engage the drawings for meanings that do justice to the child’s lived experiences of war. We highlight the deep meanings that go beyond “the facts” children’s drawings literally depict and that exceed the letter of the law. We close our presentation with questions about how child psychoanalysis might renew our understandings of the complexities of children’s lives, the emotional situation of representing social conflict, the visual vocabulary of violence, and the “ethical attentiveness” (Simon, 2005) of analytic interpretation in the wake of social and political devastation.

Christien Garcia, What is Silence?” A Reading of Jane Austen’s Persuasion

This paper begins, as the psychoanalytic setting is wont to, with silence. Silence as technique has a strong tradition in post-Freudian literature (e.g. Arlow 1961, Calogeras 1967, Winnicott 1965), suggesting that, like talk, it can be something generative. Christopher Bollas (1987), for instance, writes that silence is “the medium through which to experience the analytic holding environment.” Drawing on the recent work of Nancy Yousef (2010) who considers the cadence of this holding environment in relation to Romantic poetry, my own project considers the variations of muteness and inaudibility that attend the romance between the protagonists of Austen’s 1818 novel, Persuasion. I argue that Austen’s novel orientates us towards a critique of what Yousef calls the “rigidly conceived ethic of reciprocity, equality, and exchange.” In questioning assumptions regarding the intersubjective, my analysis has implications for reparative readings of canonical texts that are grounded in the task of making the silenced subject heard. Such readings, as they pertain to Austen, tend to focus on the silence of her female characters as a kind of profound articulateness (Carson 2004, Dinkler 2004, Stout 1990). This perspective, however, is limited in as far as it reinscribes the imperative by which hierarchies of citizenship and kinship are established according to ‘capacities’ of discursive reciprocity. Rather than simply a tool of the clinician, then, silence in psychoanalytic thought complicates the terms of intimacy and sociality by challenging the subordinate position of the non-communicative and the inarticulate self. As I argue here, figuring silence as an extension of language in the psychoanalytic and social setting should happen alongside a consideration of silence’s less resolved figuration as that which is in excess of language absolutely.

  1. James Garrett, Free Association, Brainstorming and the Pedagogical Situation

This paper explores the psychoanalytic technique of free association in relation to, and in contrast with, the common pedagogical technique of brainstorming (a certain Freudian legacy). In scenes of formal education, the technique of brainstorming is commonly employed as a way to lubricate the circuits of creative thinking, but is most commonly considered as providing self-evident content.  Brainstorming is used in classrooms to provoke the construction of lists for potential avenues of investigation or solutions to problems. The hope is that through such a listing that the “winning” idea may emerge.  However, given the acknowledgement of unconscious influence in pedagogy (Britzman, 2006; Pajak, 2012), we may need, as Lacan (1988) might say,  “to set up a stereoscope that is a little more complicated” in order to bring the richness of the pedagogical scene into a more multifaceted focus (pg. 42).

Like brainstorming, free association is a practice borne of the Freudian psychoanalytic clinic but is not meant to be a solution to a problem.  Rather, it is a stopover among problematics, that in the provocation to “say whatever comes to mind” some modicum of access to the subject’s unconscious processes emerges. Free association acknowledges that utterances and the utterances that follow those utterances help excavate material for further questions. Themes emerge and are returned for further association.  In short, free associate provides the analyzable material that fuels the analytic process.  This paper considers the pedagogical scene as analogous to the psychoanalytic clinic.  A such, I wonder if whether or not utilizing a psychoanalytic vocabulary to interpret the work of free association masking itself as a brainstorm, might bring layered complexities into such a focus to frame utterances offered in the pedagogical relation that expand the possibilities for interpretation and creative thinking in classrooms.

Dina Georgis, Psychoanalytic Knowledge and the Aesthetic Archive

Significant to the Freudian legacy is its impact on the status of knowledge, and more broadly, methods of enquiry.  Challenging the very possibility of what can be known, psychoanalysis teaches us that our object choices and relations are enactments of the limits of knowledge as it plays out in culture, politics and in everyday life. In our object choices, hard to make sense pasts can find expression. Arguably, an object is an affective placeholder for an experience whose impact has not been fully assimilated, but not foreclosed. Analytically, it promises clues to eventful or difficult experience that is held in abeyance, not yet discarded and not yet sufficiently narrativized.

Archives, personal and official, are made up of such objects: preserved because they seem important yet their significance is often not yet narrativized. In other words, their aesthetic potential is unrealized. If, as George Hagman argues, every human experience has an aesthetic dimension because we are compelled to symbolize and give value to the world in which we live, then it stands to psychoanalytic reason that all archival objects are aesthetic objects. These objects embody a non-literal reality and are an emotional source. They reside in between space of not quite inside, not quite outside. They are transitional objects, in Winnicott’s terms, which help bridge “the separation that is not a separation but a form of union” (1971, 132). In thinking through the significance of the archival objects from the unofficial collection of work generated by war-generation Lebanese artists, this paper considers how knowledge is relational, aesthetic, and reaching for insight.

Jen Gilbert, The Defended Subject: Sexuality and The Limits of Research

This paper draws on data from a three-year, collaborative qualitative research project that asked student teachers to discuss their hopes and worries for teaching about LGBTQ issues (PI Jen Gilbert, co-investigators Jessica Fields, Nancy Lesko and Mary Lou Rasmussen.) In that research, we noticed that the ways student teachers talked about LGBTQ issues kept sexuality at a distance from experiences of teaching and learning. Turning to Holloway and Jefferson’s description of the defended subject in their work on qualitative research methods, I consider how student teachers defended themselves against both the threat of sexuality and the trauma of their beginner-ness in their descriptions of responding to controversies about LGBTQ issues. For Holloway and Jefferson, the research participant is not a unitary subject, is constituted through anxiety, and uses the narrative structure of the qualitative research encounter not only to tell a story about her life, but to conceal, from herself and other, more difficult meanings. In our study, student teachers drew on familiar narrative tropes of teachers and tolerance to hold the conflicts of sexuality at bay. This dynamic is not exclusive to research participants and I conclude with a cautionary tale about how sexuality research risks becoming a defense against sexuality itself.

Oren Gozlen, From Freud’s Theory of Polymorphous Sexuality to Transsexuality: Psychoanalysis Today

Freud’s understanding of infantile sexuality as polymorphous-perverse establishes the accidental nature of gender identifications and the unpredictability of desire. In this sense, the Freudian insight that our sexuality is thoroughly traversed by the primary process of the unconscious means that the psyche is marked by difference rather than by categorical gender opposition (Bass, 2006). Transsexuality, insofar as it disrupts the fantasy of phallic monism, cannot be simply dismissed as pathology while leaving intact a truly psychoanalytic theory of sexual difference. Yet, while in contemporary cultural life, the visibility of transsexuality is part of a larger cultural revolution reorienting the nature of identity, sociality, and modes of self-fashioning, in the therapeutic clinic, transsexuality is still often considered a pathological condition. Why is it that transsexuality becomes a symptom when, in fact, it can be an opportunity to open up questions around the double bind between nature and culture in which psychoanalytic theory of gender often gets caught? If psychoanalytic discourse is affected by its own differentiating unconscious can it be that it repeats the trauma that belongs to gender?

Working from Freud’s theories of sexuality, I argue for a conceptualization of sexual difference on the side of phantasy and imagination. I ask what is at stake when we claim sexual difference leans upon the odd interaction of psychic life and material reality. And, how might the question of transsexuality affect the ways we think about transformation today?

Judith Hamilton, Lacan in Practice

In an attempt to introduce aspects of the practice of psychoanalysis into the academy, this paper will present a short version of my own professional journey through psychoanalytic training and practice, followed by a description of the contributions of Lacan’s theory and the technical implications of that theory to my psychoanalytic work.  The paper will demonstrate ways in which “Lacan” gainfully addresses some of the gaps, paradoxes and short-comings in mainstream psychoanalytic theories and practices as they have become manifest during the past 50 years.  Concepts relating to the frame of treatment, the authority or status of interpretations, the position of the analyst in the transference and the applicability of the psychoanalytic approach to a widening range of patients will be presented.  Finally, the work of contemporary Lacanians and its significance for “hypermodern”, 21st and situations of treatment will be introduced.

Julia Huggins, The Love of Small Differences: Narcissism in Mildred Pearce

This paper considers Sigmund Freud’s notion of ‘the narcissism of small differences’ and its implications not for conflict and hostility but for love. This Freudian term, borrowed from E. Crawley’s 1902 study of marriage in ‘primitive’ cultures, first appears in Freud’s 1918 essay “The Taboo of Virginity”; from Crawley’s claim that people are separated from one another by a “taboo of personal isolation” (quoted in Freud 199), Freud extrapolates that “it is precisely the minor differences in people who are otherwise alike that form the basis of feelings of strangeness and hostility between them” (199). This leads Freud to define the narcissism of small differences as “the hostility which in every human relation we see fighting against feelings of fellowship and overpowering the commandment that all men should love each other” (Ibid). Although this concept is most frequently applied to analyses of community and the hostilities between neighbouring groups, the question nonetheless remains: if such minor differences keep love at bay, then what manner of difference would allow it to flourish?

Drawing on this question as a foundation, this paper will use Jacques Lacan’s work on the objet petit a – the object-cause of desire – to enrich our understanding of narcissism and its function in love. Reading the Freudian ‘difference’ through the objet a opens up a discussion of love as a procedure – a working-through of our desire. To exemplify these ideas, this paper considers the mother-daughter relationship in Todd Haynes’ HBO miniseries Mildred Pierce (2011). Specifically, Mildred’s unconsciously incestuous desire for her daughter Veda can be understood in terms of a burdensomely narcissistic love devoid of any substantial difference. What subsequently drives the narrative is Mildred’s mission to identify or create the ‘minimal difference’ between herself and her daughter that would relieve the over-proximity of a love wholly rooted in narcissism. Mildred is ultimately successful in achieving the distance/difference with the revelation of Veda’s spectacular singing voice (quite literally beyond Veda’s body), which becomes an objet a that is suitably distinct from Mildred herself. Here, the objet a is figured as an inscription of the loving subject’s primary narcissism. This paper proposes that the identification of the gap between the objet a and the beloved as such, is a necessary precondition for love qua difference.

RM Kennedy, Freud’s Ecological Unconscious: Learning from Discarded Content

In 1922, T.S. Eliot famously described modern life as a “waste land”. Eliot was diagnosing what he saw as the post-war ruins of civilization: the collapse of universal narratives, the rise of secularism, and a corresponding aesthetic movement, namely Modernism, dedicated to narrating, with new vocabularies of interiority, a divided, conflictual, and aggressive self that could not be tamed, as the Great War amply illustrated, by moral ideals. While Eliot, as Adam Phillips (2001) notes, was troubled by the “unknown terror and mystery” of modern life, Sigmund Freud, his contemporary, offered a monumental insight: that what is unknowable, discarded, and lost offers fecund material that might allow new ways of living—and thinking—with the terrifying aspects of human existence. Freud named this receptacle of all that is discarded the unconscious.

This paper draws on two aesthetic interventions that investigate the possibilities of working with waste: Agnès Varda’s documentary The Gleaners and I (2000), which tracks a cast of subjects who transform discarded objects into resources for living, and Lucy Walker’s Waste Lands (2010), which follows Brazilian artist Vik Muniz as he photographs garbage workers in what was one of the world’s largest dumps. My paper suggests that modern life is characterized by waste, but also, as both Freud and Eliot would maintain in their own ways, that waste offers a rich archive of the most terrifying aspects of human life. We push out of sight what is intolerable: the wasted lives and ecologies destroyed in the service of neo-liberal capitalism, and the terrors of living with the human capacity for such destruction. However, this paper asks, how can waste, as the Freudian legacy teaches, also offer the imaginative material for making new kinds of ethical relations with difficult history? This paper responds to this and other questions with thoughts on free association as both aesthetic method and as a mode of social inquiry into what it means to represent waste—not as wasted time and space—but as a creative approach to understanding what is intolerable about human existence.

Gozde Kilic, Where the Father is All Too Alive: Reflexivity, Detraditionalization, and the Paternal Crisis in Freud’s Case Histories

In both his theoretical work and clinical practice, Freud cast the father as a mighty and invincible figure, whose powerful influence lay buried within the psychic archive like a fossil waiting to be excavated. In his case histories, the father appeared as the sole underlying cause of the patients’ neuroses. Now, nearly a century later, we discern that the great importance of the father in Freud’s case histories, which he defended as a fact and a universal truth, was not only a relative but also an arbitrary, even misleading assumption—especially in cases where there is no clear indication of the father’s trace on the lives of the patients such as the case of Schreber and Wolf Man. The question, then, is why did Freud insist so much on making the father the fountainhead of all psychological problems? How to explain his continuous attempt at thrusting the father figure on every individual case and theoretical inquiry?

Freud’s insistence on the grand influence of the father in his psychic explorations might seem as reinforcing his conception of him as a powerful, castrating figure. But, on second thought, doesn’t this very insistence diminish the father rather than elevate him? Can the pervasiveness of the father in Freud’s analysis be the very indication of his decline and the waning symbolic authority?

In my presentation, the topic will be oriented around these questions as I will try to address them by using theories of reflexivity/reflexive modernity (Giddens, 1990; Beck, 1992; Beck, Giddens & Lash, 1994). Reflexivity, described in Žižek’s (1999) words as “the right to choose one’s way of life instead of accepting it as imposed by tradition” (360), suggests a rejection of preconceived schemes and an interest in re-constructing one’s own meanings. In this sense, I argue that Freud’s iterant attempt to trace the origins of psychic disturbances to the father is a reflexive (as well as a self-reflexive) gesture that—through Freud’s positioning the father at the center of debates related to self-recovery and making him all too alive, visible, and therefore vulnerable—signals the waning role of tradition and father as the bearer of symbolic authority whose power ‘used to’ come from his deadness.

David Lewkowich, Catachresis: The Question of Forgetting in Teacher Education

In teacher education, students are often asked to reflect on their educational histories, in the hope that doing so will prompt them to recognize the ways that their pasts inevitably influence their present and projected pursuits. What such strategies of conscious remembrance often fail to admit, however, is that whenever one recalls a memory, one is also always forgetting, distorting, idealizing, and displacing. These distortions are far from disheartening, though, since in recognizing such gaps as an important part of who we are, we are actually empowered to look at the past as it persists into the present: as an existential archive, transformed every time we return through its holdings (Britzman, 2006). Forgetting, in this view, is far from failure, and is instead an important—though often neglected—part of an emergent occupational identity; a necessary, and elusive, psychical catachresis.

In The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, Freud (2003/1901) interprets the spontaneous reemergence of forgotten memories as a reminder of the stubborn and persistent nature of unconscious thought. Since assuming the role of a teacher often involves a process of excluding identities and experiences that do not correspond to the discursive demands of teacher education, the construction of a teacher identity entails subjective gains as well as losses (Granger, 2011). The fact is, however, that the traces of such experiences might rematerialize in ways unexpected and unwanted. An important question, then, in this relation of education to forgetting and loss, is determining the forms of forgetting that teacher education, perhaps unwittingly, encourages (Salvio, 2007). Following from Augé’s (2004) recognition that we are what we forget, this paper will work with the following questions: How do obligations to actualize memory serve as an unconscious prompt for forgetting? Are there ways to keep the riddle of loss alive in teacher education?

Lana Lin, Lost Objects: Bergasse 19 and Absence in the Space of Psychoanalysis

This paper analyzes the Freudian legacy at what is arguably its founder’s primary site of memorialization: The Sigmund Freud Museum in Vienna. How Freud is memorialized at Berggasse 19, where he lived and practiced for forty-seven years, can tell us not only about the psychodynamics of institutional spaces of public memory, but also about the kinds of promises and threats that psychoanalysis poses for the culture at large. Whereas the Freud Museum in London is characterized by its collection of all the “good” Freudian artifacts, including the famed couch, the Vienna Museum can be said to be haunted by its “lost objects.” I will examine some of the ways in which the unconscious is materialized and de-materialized in the Vienna Museum. I argue that Freud’s escape from Nazi persecution and exile from Austria casts his former home and offices into a space of irremediable loss. The Museum not only marks this loss but is also constituted by it. Its apparent emptiness reflects Freud’s evacuation, along with his family, followers, and treasured belongings. This “constitutive absence” engenders an intractable melancholia, one that I propose has fetishistic undertones (Mayer 2009, 140). I will concentrate on the role of photography in organizing the Museum as a “way of seeing” that is paradoxically based less on visual presence than on its absence (Alpers 1991). The framing of the Museum’s “lost objects,” specifically through Edmund Engelman’s iconic photographs, reveals how substitute objects are enlisted in an effort to mitigate loss, but how absence nevertheless prevails. The historical conditions of psychoanalysis’s emergence and its contemporary conditions at Berggasse 19 lead me to conclude that absence occupies the very heart of psychoanalysis.

Eleanor MacDonald, Property Guise: Anti-Indigenous Racism and Disavowals of Desire

In this paper, I draw on the psychoanalytic distinction between narcissistic and anaclitic desire to understand the way that Western ideas about property-holding have contributed to the persistent and virulent specificity of anti-indigenous racism. I argue that the racialization of indigenous peoples has relied on a conception of indigeneity as essentially rooted in non-Western forms of property-holding. This, in turn, has justified racist views toward both land-based and urbanized indigenous people. In settler colonial discourses, indigenous people are expected to be “at one” with the land, and lacking the differentiation, remove, and autonomy that characterize Western property-holding, and that are theorized as foundational to Western masculine subjectivity. This conception of indigeneity is marked by ambivalence: the sense of belonging to the land that is ascribed to indigenous peoples is romanticized even while those who are deemed to have it are repudiated and infantilized for doing so. I characterize these forms of ownership as the corollaries of forms of desire as depicted in Freudian theory. I thus view Western property ownership as the extension of anaclitic desire and as thereby validated in the West’s cultural affirmation of ownership as an extension of masculine subjectivity. I argue that this culturally dominant form relies on a disavowal of narcissistic desire and its corresponding relationship to ownership, which is then projected onto indigeneity. Western masculine subjectivity has at its core, I argue, this abjuration of narcissistic identification. The consequences of this disavowal and projection are significant: a romanticization of indigenous peoples’ relationship to land that nevertheless justifies settler dispossession and control; a related hostility towards indigenous people who are at a remove from their historic lands and practices, as these are “imagined” by settlers; and the creation of a vicious circle in which both indigeneity and diverse forms of indigenous relationships to land are regulated and confined.

Sara Matthews, “The Trophies of Their Wars”: Free Association as Cultural Analysis

 This paper explores the concept of the war trophy in relation to two exhibits at the Canadian War Museum: a black Mercedes-Benz bulletproof limousine that was once used by Hilter as a parade car and Gertrude Kearns (1996) painting Somalia Without Conscience, an image that depicts Master Corporal Clayton Matchee posing beside tortured Somali teenager Shidane Arone. A central preoccupation of the paper is how to encounter and think with the affective realm of experience when the narrative encounter at the museum is one that represents difficult histories of social devastation, violence and war. I investigate free association as a method of cultural analysis that can attend to the affective force of the social encounter. To do so I propose a fictive exhibit that brings the car into conversation with the painting and consider how the embodied subjects of war are constructed in the presence of memorial space. Finally, I comment on how visitor responses to the car and the painting open new questions with regard to the mandate of the museum to remember, to preserve and to educate.

Bradley Murray, Enjoying our Discontent: Pleasure and the Sublime in Freud and Kant

The concept of the sublime has held a prominent place in the history of philosophy, and continues to be of interest to scholars working in various disciplines and traditions – including psychoanalysis. One of the most influential accounts of the sublime has been Immanuel Kant’s. Kant takes sublimity to be a “negative pleasure” arising when we represent ourselves as being overwhelmed in one of two ways. The first corresponds to what he calls “mathematical sublimity,” and is connected with representations of cognitively overwhelming magnitudes. The second, which corresponds to what Kant calls “dynamical sublimity,” is connected with representations of powerful natural entities that are physically overwhelming.

This paper aims to explore ways in which the notion of sublimity arising out of the Kantian tradition figures into Freudian thought – and it does this partly by examining connections between Kant’s account of the sublime in the Critique of Judgement and Freud’s Civilization and its Discontents. The paper begins by considering in more detail Kant’s account of the source of the pleasure of sublimity, and the ways in which this account is connected to his views on happiness and the well-lived human life. It then examines passages in Freud’s text that take up these very themes, while reaching quite different conclusions. Finally, the paper considers ways in which Freud’s approach to these issues might remain relevant to psychoanalysis today.

Kurt Newman, The Dark Satanic Treadmill: Death Drive, Productivism and the Capitalist Unconscious

It is not always appreciated that in Beyond The Pleasure Principle, as Freud introduces the notion of “death drive,” he also invokes the discourse of political economy: “death drive” is a theory of motivation “beyond the economic point of view.” If the aftermath of World War I was one spur to the development of a metapsychology, then, we might see the maturation of corporate capitalism as another. “Death drive,” Freud suggests, is what happens when we move beyond the “hedonic calculus” of the classical political economists to what the pop psychologists call the “hedonic treadmill”—beyond, that is, what Marx called “primitive accumulation” and “simple reproduction” and into the more complex mode of life under monopoly capitalism and the reign of the business cycle.

In this paper, I bring my research on the intellectual history of twentieth century capitalism to bear on the question of “death drive,” and vice versa. I focus in particular on a particular moment in American economic history—the 1950s—and read a variety of texts as efforts to come to terms with capitalism and ‘death drive”: Alvin Gouldner’s Patterns of Industrial Bureaucracy (1954), William F. Whyte’s Money and Motivation (1955), Daniel Bell’s “Work and Its Discontents” (1956), Harvey Swados’s “Myth of the Happy Worker,” (1957), Donald Roy’s “Banana Time” (1959), and Vance Packard’s The Waste Makers (1960).

These works suggest the rise of a historically distinctive cluster of fantasies and anxieties about capitalism’s potentials for growth and tendencies to render work meaningless, and propose the need for an affective history of the Keynesian order read through the lens of Freudian psychoanalysis. Drawing upon the work of Anson Rabinbach and Kathi Weeks on the politics of productivism and Slavoj Žižek on links between political economy and “death drive,” I argue that this discursive formation was not just another variation on critiques of alienation and anomie. Rather, it was a particularly “driven” articulation of dread and negativity, of guilt-driven nationalist futurity, reflective of new Cold War pressures in the realm of international inter-capitalist competition and the paradoxes of postwar consumer citizenship. To understand the mutations of desire and drive in the neoliberal era, and to distinguish what is new, psychoanalytically speaking, about the new age of finance, I argue, one must first come to terms with this longer durée history and its discontents.

James Penney, Antisocial or Immortal? On the Death Drive in Queer Theory

One of the most radically negative and potentially universalising formulations of queerness can be found in the work of Lee Edelman, whose provocative No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive (2004) has been adopted as a linchpin of the so-called antisocial turn in queer theory writ large. Although, officially, it aims to outline a negative political logic that moves beyond a merely oppositional stance, Edelman’s version of queerness defines itself nonetheless against what he calls ‘reproductive futurism’. This phrase refers to an all-encompassing ideological framework which, in his view, draws for its libidinal support on a fantasy centred around the image of the child. For Edelman, the seductively conservative power of this image enforces the ‘absolute privilege of heteronormativity’, a privilege he views as the ‘organizing principle of communal relations’. In other words, the child is the very horizon of meaning for social life as such.

By contrast, Edelman claims that queerness signals not merely the abjected outside of social arrangements – that is, those persons or groups who cannot be represented or remain unintelligible within an existing hegemonic field. This premise assumes that with a programme of expansive reform, for instance, queers could potentially be integrated with the existing social logic. Rather, Edelman claims for queerness a more radical negativity that exposes the inconsistency of the social as such. This negativity throws the very terms of the social into incoherence or disarray. Further, Edelman’s queerness forbids the construction of any positive program or vision of social change of any kind.

From the perspective of socialist politics, the admirable doctrinal discipline with which Edelman restricts his argument’s articulation to a purely negative mode seems designed to provoke or invite accusations of nihilism. Edelman’s enlistment of psychoanalysis, and more specifically the work of Lacan, therefore poses an urgent question concerning the problematic relationship that inheres both historically and theoretically between the Freudian and socialist traditions. In short, No Futureimplies that psychoanalytic theory is incompatible with any politics based on a sense of hope for a better future. In my paper I will try to develop why I think this argument is wrong, suggesting an alternative reading of the death drive in psychoanalysis as a pathway to what Alain Badiou calls immortality.

Allan Pero, A Colophon of Night: Analysis and Its Insistences

One of the current, even prevailing criticisms of psychoanalysis is primarily economic in nature; that is to say, psychoanalysis “fails” precisely because it makes, in the name of doubt, the demand of time upon the analysand. Over the past few decades, pharmaceuticals, behaviourism, and other forms of “quick-fix” therapy—acupuncture, laser treatments, and even hypnosis, are lauded for their success on the basis of their supposed efficiency, for their ability to clear away addictions, symptoms, and phobias. Readers of Freud are well aware of the skepticism with which such forms of treatment should be viewed, and why. If Lacan’s famous return to Freud was an attempt to insist upon the truth-value of the  unconscious as a form of representation, as a setting of the Analyst’s Discourse against the University Discourse, then how might we re-imagine the power of doubt that Freud uncovered? This paper will argue that the emergence of “the Discourse of Economics”—the perverse certainties of truth and efficiency—requires not only an energetic critique, but a renewed commitment to Freud’s most adventurous thinking about the possibilities for analysis, the drives, and the virtue of discontentment.

Jeanne Randolph, MUDDLING FREUD: psychoanalysis and creativity

Research that results in a visual or literary artwork requires methodological devices that are not necessarily central to academic research.  Distinctions between these two modes of research are matters of emphasis, not absolute difference. The classic Freudian claim that unconscious desires of the artist are recognized and “enjoyed” unconsciously by the audience is not an adequate hypothesis for the way in which art elicits engagement by audience.  Paradoxically some aspects of Freud’s claim may be relevant to academic research. Several Freudian psychoanalytic propositions will be explored as possible insights into the vagaries of subjectivity in art research methodology. Images of antiquities in Freud’s collection will be used to organize and to illustrate each feature of creative research, as well as serve as mnemonics for ideas presented.  En passant the relevance of creative research methods to analyst-analysand communication will be noted.

Lucas Richert and Adam Montgomery, Osmond’s Interview: Schizophrenia, Sixties Psychiatry and the Jungian Typology

In June 1964, British psychiatrist Humphry Osmond sat down with influential Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) journalist Marjorie McEnaney in Princeton, New Jersey for a 6-hour interview. They discussed hospital reform, the importance of individualized patient care, the norms of Sixties psychiatry, and the relationship between schizophrenia and d-lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). McEnaney also invited Osmond to ruminate on and apply Carl Jung’s theory of personality types. The daylong interview was not confrontational in a Frost v. Nixon sense. Rather, the conversation was important because it elucidates an understanding of intersecting trends in psychiatry during the tumultuous 1960s: the diminishing role of Freudian psychodynamic theories and psychoanalysis amidst the profession’s “rebiologization”; the eclectic nature of clinical practice; and an influential physician’s view of the ideal hospital in a period of accelerating deinstitutionalization. Osmond was an intriguing figure whose career, when viewed alongside the McEnaney interview, adds to a growing body of literature that questions the value of the “pendulum metaphor” in psychiatric histories, and suggests that psychiatry in the 1960s defied one-dimensional characterizations such as “psychoanalytic” or “biological.”

Mari Ruti, When Forgiveness Is Not an Option: Arguing with Judith Butler

This presentation outlines Butler’s ethics of precarity, focusing on the theoretical impasses introduced by Butler’s adoption of the Levinasian notion that because we owe our very existence to the other, we are responsible for the other regardless of how he or she behaves. In particular, it questions Butler’s valorization of forgiveness as an ethical virtue, pointing out that this stance shifts the burden of ethical accountability from the victimizer to the victimized. To counter these problems, it calls for a priori normative limits that are historically specific rather than metaphysically grounded, arguing that the lack of easily universalizable ethical principles does not mean that such principles are either impossible or worthless.

Trish Salah, The Return to Schreber? Autogynophilic Phantasy and Transgender Theory in Freud, Bailey and Binnie

As well as allowing the transsexual to become a man or a woman in the clinician’s office, autobiography, then, allows the transsexual to remain (very publically) a transsexual….Autobiography’s conventions are both the means to passing through transsexuality and the means to passing back into it. (Prosser 131)

“…while our stories secure our knowledge of the past, they are always simultaneously vulnerable to the affect of loss that impelled them in the first place.” (Georgis 63)

Towards the end of Please Select Your Gender, Patricia Gherovici proposes both that Danial Paul Schreber’s Memoirs of my Nervous Illness might be understood as the prototype of the whole genre of transsexual autobiography and that “Schreber was to Freud what Joyce is to Lacan,” a name under which was written the experience of the truth of jouissance as sinthome, one by which text and body are held together. Freud himself suggests that in Schreber’s text is written the endo-­‐somatic perception of much of what Freud would theorize through psychoanalysis, the system of unconscious representation, the libidinal body and the structure of sexuation. Freud also infamously read through “the Schreber case” the wish to change sex as a symptom of repressed homosexuality.

In this paper I would like to examine the contemporary legacies and resonances of Schreber’s text and Freud’s reading of it. In particular I would like to return to Freud’s Schreber, and Schreber’s excess, to attend to three linked problematics: the co-­‐constitution and separation of sexual (minority) identities, the subject-­‐making function of narrative and non-­‐narrative textualizations of jouissance, and the phantasy of subjective dissolution occasioned by encounters with the Real of castration. To do so, I will bring Schreber’s and Freud’s accounts of jouissance and feminine identification together to read inscriptions of cross-­‐sex phantasy and jouissance in two recent representations of transsexuality: J. Michael Bailey’s The Man Who Would Be Queen and Imogen Binnie’s novel, Nevada. 

Karyn Sandlos, On the Emotional Situation of Making an Educational Film

How might the possibilities for interpreting representations of youth sexuality move beyond the educational vernacular of choice, tolerance, respect and responsibility? The purpose of the paper is to consider the emotional stakes for youth and educators in conversations about what can come to count as an educational message. Interviews with youth and adults who participated in making the short, educational film, Man in the Mirror (2010, http://www.scenariosusa.org/) provide the context for this analysis. Drawing on psychoanalytic concepts of splitting and projective identification, the paper will bring into focus some challenges youth and adults face interpreting representations of sexuality and learning; in particular, through encounters with films about sexual and gender based violence and LGBTQ bullying. My reading of the film and the interview data will consider problems of linking between didactic and aesthetic modes of address that emerge in the process of making an educational film.

Megha Sehdev, Fantasy and Technicality: The Intercutting of Gendered Genres in Freud’s Dora and in Indian Domestic Violence Law

In An Analysis of a Case of Hysteria (Dora), Freud tells the narrative of a young woman who is brought to his clinical practice for hysterical symptoms. Freud takes great pains to highlight the study as a scientific one. He likens himself to a gynecologist, engaging in conversations purely for clinical interest, cordoned from any prurient excitement. The gynecological disguise however is betrayed by a constant but curious reference in the text to “other” forms of literature, particularly the novella and erotica. Freud claims at every turn that he is treating this prurient literature as a symptom of Dora’s illness. Yet the lines between Freud’s clinical and personal involvement in recounting this literature often become blurred. In this paper I will explore how “hysterical” genres make an appearance in Freud’s analysis, asking whether his analysis itself becomes hysterical–infected by its own operations. The second part of the paper will extend this very question to a common scene I encounter in the domestic violence courts of New Delhi, where, as an anthropologist, I conduct fieldwork. In these courts, the melodramatic outbursts of aggrieved women are central to the domestic violence trial. The patriarchal authority of the court – the judge – like Freud, evaluates women’s symptoms and the soundness of their claims, while participating heavily and excitedly in the melodramatic tone. Drawing on Freud’s text, and the court scenes, I will investigate moments at which genres of melodrama, fantasy, and technicality tend to blur. How can we see hysterical genres as “subject” to authoritative ones, as in a conventional feminist reading, but also, when do authoritative accounts become vulnerable to, and start hybridizing with, feminine ones? As anthropologist Beth Povinelli puts it, how can we see genres as always at the risk of invagination? When and how are boundaries drawn?

Eilon Shomron-Atar, Psychoanalysis Without Metaphors

Contemporary Neo-Kleinian and Relational psychoanalysis espouses the mutual expansion of metaphors as a key clinical element (Newirth, 2003). Symbols and objects are seen as metaphors (Lakoff and Johnson, 1980) and the mastery of metaphors is central to the development of thinking and emotional integration (Segal, 1988). Object-relations are established through ever growing associative chains or complex metaphors where one symbol subsumes another and is then subsumed by a new symbol and so on, with partial overlaps and growing complexities. We can glimpse these elements of shared growth and integrated experience already in the Greek word for ‘symbol’, σύμβολο, meaning the linking together of two halves of a broken object (Laplanche and Pontalis, 1973). Linking (as Bion (1976) elucidated) moves psychoanalysis away from a repressed unconscious—in which metaphors eclipse a symbol—to a relational and productive unconscious—where symbols and sublimations are on the same continuous trajectory.

In this paper I would like to begin to imagine the element lost in this theoretical and clinical shift, through a return to Freud’s ‘mute elements’ (1900; The Interpretation of Dreams) and Ernest Jones’ (1918) ‘true symbols’. Dream interpretation, aside from espousing metaphoric elaborations and associations, includes the uncovering of symbols, primary metaphors of unconscious content that cannot be sublimated—which cannot suffer elaborations into complex metaphors.

Read through Winnicott’s (1971) transitional objects and Deleuze and Guattari’s replacement of metaphors with metamorphosis, a viable and vibrant psychoanalysis begins to materialize clear of metaphoric delineations. Enlivening classical formulations of symbolism, this trajectory leads us to an appreciation of the symbol as an object linked-in to the matrix of transitional object connections. This suggests a clinical experience that expands horizontally, leveling, rather and reveling in, metaphors. I will conclude by exploring the vicissitudes of symbol use through the brief exploration of clinical case material.

Kathryn Simpson, The Freudian Legacy: Male Hysteria

The significance of a specifically male hysteria in the genesis of Freudian psychoanalysis has often been overlooked, perhaps because of the dominance of female patients in Josef Breuer and Sigmund Freud’s Studies in Hysteria (1895); or because of Freud’s notorious ‘Dora’ case, which examined bisexuality and hysteria in a young Jewish woman of Vienna; or because of Freud’s subsequent turn to seemingly non-hysterical male cases such as the ‘Rat Man.’ Yet Freud’s first psychological publication, his first public presentations on psychopathology, and the first of his translations all concerned hysteria in men.  Juliet Mitchell claims, in her Mad Men and Medusas: Reclaiming Hysteria (2001), that male hysteria has been repressed but “has continued to haunt psychoanalysis, structuring both the thought and the therapy by its omission” (53).

In recent years, finally, a re-examination of the distinguishing dynamics of male hysteria seems to have begun.  In Hysterical Men: The Hidden History of Male Nervous Illness (2008) Mark S. Micale argues both that hysteria is deeply associated with the female body and femininity in the cultural imagination, and that this association is at least partially erroneous.  Moreover Micale insists categorically that “Freud’s engagement with the male hysteria concept represents an underappreciated element in the intellectual genesis of his system of ideas, a hitherto hidden genealogy of psychoanalytic thought” (228).

Male hysteria already had a high-profile status in Paris in the last two decades of the nineteenth century, but nevertheless Freud himself did make certain key contributions to the understanding and treatment of this illness. My paper will discuss the largely neglected legacy of male hysteria in Freud’s work and suggest ways that this clinical and conceptual rubric can be taken up productively, for example in analyzing the ugly self-representational strategies of young artists in Freud’s early-twentieth-century Vienna.

Randall Terada,  Politics of the Death Drive, Ethics of the Real

In his now classic study Civilization and Its Discontents Freud takes on an age old distinction between the individual and collective and translates this distinction into one between an ego and the death drive. In particular what interests me is Freud’s discussion of the death drive which was first introduced in an earlier work as that which is ‘beyond’ the pleasure principle. In what way can we say the death drive is ‘beyond’ in any sense? Going some way towards answering this, Freud, in Civilization and Its Discontents, famously wonders aloud regarding the genesis of the animal versus human:

In the case of other animal species it may be that temporary balance has been reached between the influence of their environment and the mutually contending instincts within them, and that thus a cessation of development has come about. It may be that in primitive man a fresh access of libido kindled a renewed burst of activity on the part of the destructive instinct. There are a great many questions here to which as yet there is no answer.” (C&D 70)

Freud draws a contrast here between homeostatic balance that results in the cessation of development (death) and paradoxically the death drive as inauguration of movement and a breakthrough to the human. Hence stealing a page from Slavoj Žižek’s work, I will make the argument that the Freudian death drive represents an important theoretical innovation for the analysis of politics and society and in particular the relation between the particular and universal.

I will also argue that in Civilization and its Discontents Freud’s rebuttal of a humanist ethics, revealed in his critical reading of “Thou shalt love thy neighbour” can be extended to critically formulate a possible outline for an ethical theory. In other words, the ‘monstrosity’ of the other that Freud only hints at can be made the basis for an ethical universality.

Overall this paper presentation will seek to offer a modest Lacanian inspired update to Freud’s classic text.

Clive Thomson, The Speaking Body, Jouissance, and savoir parlé in Lacan’s Seminar XX (Encore)

Colette Soler, in Ce que Lacan disait des femmes and in her conference presentations, regularly urges her readers “to unfold and illustrate clinically” the paradoxical dimensions of Lacan’s theories. In the context of her discussion paper that was circulated in advance of the 2010 meeting in Rome of the Forums du champ lacanien, she quotes Lacan’s expression, “ the mystery of the speaking body” and suggests that the mysteries of the speaking body are related to jouissance and that the body takes its voice from the unconscious. Soler’s observations are the point of departure for this paper which will examine a triad of signifiers from Encore that we take to be of central importance: the speaking body, jouissance, and spoken savoir. We know, with Lacan, that the Other jouissance is located in/on the body, without our knowing where it is located, or even how it could be imagined. This “mystery” can be related to what we witness in our clinical work, when, during a session, patients produce body events like sciatica, a stiff neck, a cramped foot, perspiration, etc. Such body events/symptoms can be seen as signifiers – they are knowledge (savoir) without a subject. But what kind of savoir are they? Spoken savoir, to be sure. What is the status of this savoir and how does jouissance pass into spoken savoir? And what are the possibilities of the transmission of such a savoir? What kind of analyst is “required” (Soler’s term) when the analysis runs up against the “limits of the aim of knowledge” (and truth?)? By “unfolding” Lacan’s ideas in Seminar XX on “the mysteries of the spoken body” and while examining some clinical material, we aim to provide some hypothetical answers to these questions.

Macy Todd, A Discourse of Need: Freud and the Contemporary Situation of Famine

In 2012, The Guardian reported on the UN’s suggestion that carelessness about the environment would result in widespread and devastating famine. In the article, titled “UN Warns of Looming Worldwide Food Crisis in 2013,” John Vidal suggests that the encroaching possibility of famine is due to the fact that the world continues to demand more food than it can produce. The Daily Star published an article this year titled “Famine Threatens the Very Survival of Civilization,” an even more direct and apocalyptic vision of the coming food shortage. There, Paul R. Erlich suggests the only way to avoid famine is to increase availability of birth control and safe abortion technology in order to combat a mushrooming population. Both articles suggest, in different ways, that the defining political concept of the coming times will be famine.

Psychoanalysis here identifies claims to objectivity that, in their mathematical/scientific vocabulary, use a discourse of biological need to produce authority. These claims, when taken as statements of objective truth, have the ability to produce relationships of power and control that are based completely in a symbolic register; the tenuous link between nutrition and forced birth control reveals this dangerous confusion. While it seems counterintuitive to reduce the issue of famine to questions of symbolic value and exchange, one must remember that Freud, in “Screen Memories,” identifies “hunger and love” as “the two most powerful motive forces” of human existence without reducing them to a binary opposition between need and desire. It is therefore only through a discourse of the drive—the concept Freud discovered as the subject’s coeval embodiment and symbolic being—that the concept of famine can be properly studied. By repositioning famine discourse within a Freudian understanding of “need,” my paper seeks to reëvaluate the true source of global nutritional crises.

Iulian Toma, Presences de Freud dans les essais de pascal Quignard

Romancier et essayiste contemporain dont l’œuvre témoigne de sa grande érudition, Pascal Quignard développe à travers ses écrits éparpillés au long des quatre dernières décennies des réflexions dont les thèmes ne sont pas sans toucher aux préoccupations de la psychanalyse : la perte, l’angoisse, l’abject, la parole, le désir. C’est surtout dans quelques-uns de ses essais que les lectures psychanalytiques de Quignard deviennent manifestes : Petits traités I-III (1981- 1984), La Leçon de musique (1987), Le Nom sur le bout de la langue (1993), Le Sexe et l’effroi (1994), Dernier royaume I-VII (2002-2012), La Nuit sexuelle (2007). Les références à Freud, à son œuvre comme à sa biographie, émergent çà et là à la surface de ces écrits, sorte d’archipel que je me propose d’explorer dans ma communication.

Les objectifs de mon intervention seront au nombre de deux : dans un premier temps je tenterai de répertorier et de classer les références à Freud, pour mettre en évidence ensuite la manière dont elles sont incorporées dans le texte quignardien (elles peuvent servir de repères culturels, fonctionner en tant que citations, fournir des anecdotes, etc.). Il ressortira à la fin de mon exposé que Pascal Quignard ne se tourne jamais vers Freud avec l’intention de puiser dans sa doctrine et d’affirmer un attachement ; dans l’évocation des idées ou de la biographie du psychanalyste viennois, Quignard semble plutôt entreprendre de « fictionnaliser » sa figure historique, de dépayser sa réception.

Ricky Varghese, Toward a Theory of Revolutionary Love in Psychoanalysis

Kaja Silverman in her evocative study of Marguerite Duras and Alain Resnais’s groundbreaking 1959 film Hiroshima, mon amour – which becomes the filmic text of my own study here – makes a rigorous case for the cure by love that, she emphasizes, is central to the psychoanalytic encounter. As such, following Freud’s commentary on transference love, she suggests that this cure “represents the triumph of relationality, it is a cure through and for displacement…[it] suggests that creatures and things are in need of this care because without it they cannot help but suffer from the most serious of maladies: invisibility” (Silverman, 2005, p. 42). By forging Silverman on this specific notion of a cure by love and Freud on the complex subject of psychoanalytic transference, the attempt being made in this paper is to begin the work of conceiving a fastidious response always already implicit in the Freudian legacy to Gayatri Spivak’s inquiry concerning political alterity and invisibility: can the subaltern speak? If within such a scene of triumphant relationality, the cure by love is predicated on a necessary displacement of the subject (and of subjectivity, as such) such that s/he becomes visible, or is given over to visibility, the argument attempted here is for further exploring the political impulse within the psychoanalytic field that allows us to envision how the other’s subject formation might be possible or even imagined. At its core, it could be suggested that psychoanalysis is an exploration of a subject’s response to traumatic loss, and hence this study asks what it would mean for us to locate love as a cure against such loss and to think this love as the revolutionary cornerstone in the desire to work against historical invisibility and for subaltern speech. The case for love, here, becomes a case for the other’s visibility.

Yeung Cheuk Fung Wayne, Politicizing the psyche: Kinships in Freud, Engels and beyond

This paper would like to argue that the Oedipus complex is a means of social control that regulates a subject’s entry to a patriarchal culture. Arguing that the psychogenesis of kinship system is indispensable in a sociological theory that deals with patriarchy, the paper contends that Freud’s myth of primal horde entails and presupposes Engels’ own hypothetical consanguine family, both of which are capable of mutual elucidation. It allows us to understand how the present familial economic system is established, and supplies the psychological basis that Engels’ own economic theory is wanting.

The argument then develops to include various post-Freudian efforts to comprehend and theorize the pre-Oedipal, noticeably as a psychoanalytic response to the changing familial structure which initiates and is also motivated by feminism. Following the works by Melanie Klein, Julia Kristeva and Piera Aulagnier, we can see how the previously proposed theoretical unity between Freud and Engels have paved the way towards a psychoanalytic understanding of the politico-economic questions of maternity, motherhood and childraising, which are the weaker points often invoked by the feminist criticism of psychoanalysis as ideologically prescriptive. The paper suggests that these psychoanalysts’ theories and practices are responses to a general call for a historicized understanding of paternalist familial system which is put under question by modernity. The result, as this paper would like to conclude, is to relativize the Oedipal institution, unhinging it as a theoretically posited a priori, so that its political implication can be accounted for and its normalizing tendency transcended, a result that helps psychoanalysis to confront the new epistemological problems posed by new matrimonial and kinship patterns in contemporary societies.

Charles Wells, Kid Logic and Little Big Others: The Image of the Innocent Child

In his recent talk entitled “The Event: Politics, Art, Ontology,” Slavoj Zizek argues that what is often understood as Freud’s fundamental discovery – infantile sexuality – is today more and more repressed as the price for sustaining our liberal tolerant permissive ideology. That is to say, while the late capitalist postmodern society in which we live encourages us to experience ourselves as polymorphous perverts, entitled to our idiosyncratic forms of enjoyment, the innocent child who must be protected from this enjoyment has become a more and more potent figure in our cultural imaginary.

This paper explores the relationship between Zizek’s argument concerning infantile sexuality and his broader conceptions of human subjectivity and society, which he develops in large part out Jacques Lacan’s psychoanalytic theory. Specifically, this paper uses the Lacanian notion of enjoyment, which is linked to the Freudian death drive, and the Lacanian notion of the big Other, which is linked to Lacan’s particular interpretation of the Freudian unconscious. In Zizek’s language, the figure of the innocent child sustains our unconscious enjoyment by acting as “the Other who is supposed not to know.”

This paper proposes to read these concepts through the lens of a short story from an episode of the radio show This American Life entitled “Kid Logic.” On the one hand, this story provides an interesting image of a child whose ignorance cannot be sustained by her father, and the anxiety that this provokes in him. On the other hand, this story can be read precisely as mobilizing the image of the innocent child in order to sustain a particular form of political enjoyment. These conflicting readings provide an ideal terrain on which to explore the notions of enjoyment and the big Other in relation to the image of childhood ignorance.

Martin Zeilinger, “Dreamlo-lo-lover where are you-u-u” Sampling as Analysis, Sampling as Symptom

Sampling – i.e., the playful, provocative, or obsessive repetition of bits of information – is an extremely widespread phenomenon in contemporary cultural practice. Currently, the dominant modes of analyzing and interpreting sampling-based art forms rely on property-based, essentially capitalist discourses of authorship and cultural ownership. In this paper, I argue that such modes subjects sampling practices to a conceptual flattening, in which ‘repetition’ is almost always conflated with ‘copying,’ and thus inevitably (mis) interpreted as the infringement of intellectual property rights. Undoubtedly, cultural practices of repetition are symptomatic of much more than simple copyright infringement. I argue that framing the discussion of such practices with psychoanalytical theory can help us recuperate a vast scale of considerably more positive perspectives on pop culture’s obsession with sampling. Testing this claim in a close reading of a traumatic Father-Son confrontation in Martin Arnold’s 1998 award-winning experimental found footage film Alone. Life Wastes Andy Hardy, I propose that something important is lost when we force sampling-based art forms into a conceptual horizon in which all culture is understood as mere property. In my reading, the repetitions of sampling re-emerge as symptomatic of culturally, socially, and psychologically productive tendencies: as I’ll show, repetition, when approached as critical creative practice, may allow us to ‘work through’ the alienation that currently characterizes our relationships to many cultural practices and expressions bound in repressive circuits of ownership and commodity exchange.

This presentation uses audio-visual materials, and builds on an essay forthcoming in the edited volume Sampling Across the Spectrum (Oxford University Press).