The Queer Psychoanalysis Society

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Queer Before Queer

In Counter-transferences, Instinct for Research, Sublimation on November 22, 2011 at 12:23 am


by Diego Costa

It may be easy, for the psychoanalytically uninitiated (those quick to roll their eyes without engaging with the actual literature), to take Foucault’s figures of 19th Century power-knowledge – “the hysterical woman, the masturbating child, the Malthusian couple and the perverse adult” – as a series of jabs at a psychoanalytical project, which, at least partially created these figures. However, that would be to confound psychiatry, psychology and psychoanalysis into one big homogeneous monster, and mostly, to ignore psychoanalysis’ dynamic, and multipronged, unfolding throughout the 20th Century.[i]

Foucault’s envisioning of that potentiality of desire(s) somehow unbound by a pre-made tautological relationship to objects, free to roam around like flanêurs, against what he called the “deployment of sexuality,” is perhaps the unseen link that can suture both queer and psychoanalytic projects[1]. To insist on not seeing that conduit line may mean to keep on tripping over it, and allowing it to knot up and around the researcher’s own desire for truth of her object of study. For, as we know, any analytical project that demands its truth without accepting its risks is one fated to be a victim of its own perversions. The desire of the theorist, or the “instinct for research” (Forschertrieb) or knowledge (Wisstrieb), whose first signs are known to coincide with the sexual life of children’s “first peak,” is too often missing from queer work’s considerations, although it is never absent. And we would do well in recognizing the desire of the (queer) theorist, always already a (sexual) sublimation vying for some kind of mastery, precisely when it takes the shape of such symbolic reluctance: where is, for instance, the theorist’s dealings with her own “counter-transferences”?[ii]

This is not to say that queer theorists haven’t included their own selves, consciously and not, whilst producing their work. I am suggesting, however, that we would benefit from a more calculated, and strategic, awareness of self-implication in conducting research that is akin to the extensive work that psychoanalysis has created concerning the analyst herself as a desiring subject. The branches of Queer Theory that resist a psychoanalytical approach often reveal a blinding U.S.-centrism in their claims of Austria-centrism against psychoanalysis itself, along with the history of a certain sublimation that comes with “I,” including strategies to control the personal risk inherent to the research, keeping it from contaminating the researcher herself, or exposing an always already contaminated researcher.[iii] The irony, or the kinship, being the way in which Queer Theory and psychoanalysis aim to detect the undetectable…What is most interesting about psychoanalysis if not its inherent queering mechanism? With its constant flow of remembering and forgetting theory, using and misusing theory, setting up and putting on theory into a scene (that is alive), there is no mode of thought/contemplation, inquiry/deconstruction, perception/narrativization, engagement/awakening, intellectualization/being queerer than psychoanalysis’.

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What’s Queer About Psychoanalysis?

In Barthes, Freud, Lacan, LGBT, Mythology, Queer Theory, Stockton on November 21, 2011 at 11:47 pm

by Chase Dimock

Whenever I “out” myself as a student of Freud, I am inevitably greeted with comments like “Isn’t that the guy who said we all secretly want to have sex with our moms?” or “You know he’s been disproved, right?” It is true that Freud’s work has been diluted with bad pop culture appropriations that have turned his thousands of pages of careful analysis into a couple of slogans to be thrown around at cocktail parties. Yet, it is also a testament to his enduring influence and value in the cultural imaginary. 120 years after his first publications, he is still the most famous and widely recognized psychologist in the world.

To say that Freud has been “disproved” is to ignore the process by which human thought evolves over time and builds on the speculation and observations of the previous generations. Many of Freud’s ideas are in some ways antiquated or incompatible with the direction in which our social values have turned (penis envy comes to mind here). But, Freud himself was open to changing his beliefs over the course of his career. He added footnotes over the years to many of his texts to address new findings that changed his opinions about their subjects. Still, several of the core principles of Freudian thought endure today. Even those most rabidly against psychoanalysis cannot dispute the presence of unconscious associations, the value of putting one’s inner thoughts into narrative (the “talking cure”), and the importance of analyzing the systems of authority and power under which we mature and with which we identify.

Yet, I have no intention of defending Freud as a clinician, a scientist, or as any of the other roles that represent fields in which I have no expertise. Rather, I am interested in maintaining Freud’s relevance to my own field: the study of literature and culture. This is why, when I respond to any of the above questions or challenges to my interest in Freud, I say, “Freud was the greatest mythologist of the 20th century”. By “mythologist” I do not mean myth as a false or fictional idea. Instead, I conceive of Freud’s mythology as one part classical mythology and one part the cultural mythologies described by the French semiotician Roland Barthes. Mythology is not simply a bunch of quaint stories from antiquity, but it is rather an on going process through which cultures communicate their values, ideologies, and desires and grapple with that which is beyond their complete comprehension in the form of easily relatable narratives and archetypes. Mythology simplifies and personifies the “other”. Just as the ancients used the cruelty and petty competitions of the gods to personify the natural and social elements beyond human control and explanation, so too do we today use mythological constructs like “the invisible hand” to explain laissez-faire economics or “maternal instinct” to account for the infinite intimate ways a mother understands her child that have not been put into language. Freud’s great contribution toward personifying the “other” was recognizing that the “other” resided in our selves and in fact is an integral part of self.  Freud dramatically and effectively illustrated how the “self” is in of itself a mythology: a split entity made up of an ego, id, and super-ego–all subject to the associations and eruptions of the unconscious.

This then answers the original question of this essay. What’s queer about psychoanalysis is what’s at its very core: the mythology of self. When we navigate away from uncritical assumptions about there being an essential, stable self, we unsettle the very foundations of all other normative assumptions attached to it, including norms about gender, sexuality, race, and any other social constructs that we try to etch post-natal into our DNA. While Freud was no queer theorist, he gave us a model of subjectivity through which the “queer” could be investigated. With the theory of polymorphous perversity, Freud speculated that sexuality in infancy begins with a form of “perversity” in which “the formation of such perversions meets but slight resistance because the psychic dams against sexual excesses, such as shame, loathing and morality—which depend on the age of the child—are not yet erected or are only in the process of formation” (57). Sexuality, according to Freud, begins with an exploration of one’s own body in which activities that adults have been taught to think of as shameful are freely pursued. It is additionally important that sexuality begins with physical pleasure. It is only later in the child’s life that they learn to find other things (people and objects) attractive and to want to derive pleasure from them. Read the rest of this entry »

To Disguise, To Repeat, To Deploy

In Masquerade, Primitive Traumas, Transvestite Souls on November 15, 2011 at 7:22 am

by Alejandra Josiowicz

              “In the act of writing, and, why not, of reading, there was a world that came near, and there was a belonging that was at stake.”

Denilson Lopes, O homem que amava rapazes o outros ensaios. 2002.

Why study psychoanalysis and how to use it as a critical tool? What is to be queer here and now? What are the possible connections between teaching, writing, reading and our sexed selves? If the identity categories control our eroticism, what practices of reading, teaching and writing should we use? How should we defer ourselves (Butler 1996) in order not to be captivated in our own voice, writing, work?

How can we remain opaque, in an age in which all ethics –democratic, professional, commercial, technical- are associated with transparency and public disclosure? Is there a particular performance of dignity in the practice of opacity, like Eric Laurent said recently about the paradoxical figure of authority in his clinic practice (“Psychoanalysis & our time” Laurent, Eric. Barnard College, NY, 29th Sept 2011)?

In a multicultural age where emerging agents so much as developing countries seek to occupy a new real and imaginary space in a public sphere in crisis, what should be the role of experimental, critical, gender and psychoanalytic theory? Should it theorize its paradoxes, take part or critically weigh the facts and figures of a possible new beginning? What kind of gender & social performances should we allow and choose for ourselves? How much painful social and gender indefiniteness can our bodies and minds endure? How should we speak about the risky frontiers of our identity and to whom? Students? Professors? Therapists? Friends? Is there a possibility to remain silent, enabling the psychic excess of the real to act for itself?

What do we do with the genders we want to have, the genders we lost, the mimicking and rejections we constantly enact? Do we disguise them in drag? Do we repeat them endlessly searching for a secure place, for an identification? Which appearances, which glitters and surfaces, which powerful disguises will deploy not so much the stigmatization of an other but the uncertainties and negotiations of our own pleasures and desires? Which transvestites’ souls? Which masquerades? Transwritings, transimages, transquotidean, androgynies, ambiguities, identities as becoming, baroque spectacles, all gathered in a practice of writing that escapes the purely academic posture of the critic and involves itself in criticism as an act of pleasure (Lopes 2002).

If, according to Lacan, the unconscious is structured as a language -more than the Freudian reservoir of affective impulses- semiological research after Pierce and Saussure had to deal with this renovation. The lacanian concept of language – as mother tongue- is a powerful tool to block and, more importantly, unblock inhibition, symptom and depression. The semiotic, precocious pre- linguistic relations, minimum particles of language that the child shares with his mother, carry the most archaic register of the unconscious. Childish babble carries the inscription of primitive traumas, joyful as well as painful experiences (Kristeva 2011). Therefore, to recover that primitive oral body is to go beyond the banal body of the globalized media towards artistic practice as experience and radical language. That is why, according to Kristeva, psychoanalytic practice and literature constitute one and the same psychic dynamic, because they are mystical transformative experience of our subjectivity.

Works cited

-Butler, Judith, “Imitation and Gender Insubordination” in Women, Knowledge and Reality. Explorations in Feminist Philosophy. New York: Routledge, 1996.

-Kristeva, Julia, “Psicoanálisis y literatura son la misma cosa” entrevista por Mauro Libertella en Clarín, Revistaenie, 11- Noviembre-2011.

-Laurent, Eric, “Psychoanalysis & our time” in The First Paris USA Lacan Seminar in New York City. Lacan´s Legacy: Thirty Years in the Lacanian Orientation, Barnard College , NY, 29th Sept 2011.

-Lopes, Denilson, O homem que amava rapazes e outros ensaios. Rio de Janeiro: Aeroplano, 2002.

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