SPI has organized two panels for this year’s Association for the Psychoanalysis of Culture and Society annual conference. The conference is organized around the theme of “Border Tensions”. First up, a roundtable discussion on “Agendas in Analytic Social Psychology,” with a special contribution from Lynne Layton. Then, Saturday morning, presentation of recent research from SPI’s Surrealism & Psychoanalysis Research Group.
What’s My Line? Agendas in Analytic Social Psychology
In troubled times, it is worth asking basic questions—How do inner life and social form relate? Can an analytic social psychology contribute to social critique and change? Whose sleep is troubled? But we too often treat theory as a given, ready for launch against new happenings. We get a perpetual inventory, a critical cataloguing of events. But we don’t create an agenda for research that points toward possibilities of transformation. Analytic Social Psychology lives or dies with these agendas. They are shaped by theories concerning the core elements of psychoanalysis. They put forward core questions. They confront the obscure dynamics of domination. They have changed and must change. Emphasizing these changes means finding differences even among allies in the struggle for a better world, for the sake of clarity and purpose. The borders between theories can help elucidate the problems of our time.
This roundtable invites participants to discuss the theoretical fundamentals of analytic social psychology by examining schools that set strong agendas for it. Presenters will take on, for purposes of breadth and depth, the Sex-Political school/movement of Wilhelm Reich (1933), the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory (1945), and the Ljubljana school (1989), among others—their fundamental theories and their entwinement in political history. Each of these formations will be presented through a brief report on its fundamental fault lines. Each presentation will be followed by discussion. All participants will then have an opportunity to raise questions about the present, motivated by the conversation. We feel that this dialogue, while it may prove a modest contribution toward the formulation of a new agenda in social psychology, is important to the continuing vitality of psychoanalytic social theory as we draw, redraw, and efface the borders between sociology and psychology, society and individual, the status quo and an emancipated world.
- Jeremy Cohan
- Greg Gabrellas
- Scott Jenkins
- Lynne Layton
Other Incubations: Psychoanalysis through Surrealism
In her book “Psychoanalytic Politics,” historian Sherry Turkle suggests that the tenor of psychoanalytic thought is mediated by the social institutions and cultural conditions of its time and place of reception. Whereas in America, argues Turkle, psychoanalytic ideas were channeled almost exclusively through the medical community, in France “the psychiatric resistance to psychoanalysis allowed it a long period of incubation in the world of artists and writers… a pattern which reinforced the tendency to take ideas and invest them with philosophical and ideological significance instead of turning them outwards toward problem solving.” These artists and writers — particularly those in the orbit of the Surrealist movement — appropriated and further developed psychoanalytic ideas as part of a radical and general critique of reason; as a complement to a philosophical vitalism; and as a view of mental life that expanded the frontiers of experience and reality far beyond the borders of conscious, controlled waking life. Elaborating concepts and themes like the unconscious, the dream, desire, and automatism in a manner different than the psychoanalytic movement proper, the early French appropriation of Freud by Surrealism and its fellow travelers carried psychoanalytic thinking to the borders of philosophy, aesthetics, and politics. This panel takes Turkle’s observation as a point of departure in order to examine psychoanalysis at the borders of philosophy, politics, and aesthetics as it emerges in France in the first half of the twentieth century, through the work of the Surrealist movement proper and its associates like Georges Bataille.
- Scott Jenkins
- Ben Koditschek (via Jeremy Cohan)
- Christie Offenbacher