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The Colonization of Psychic Space

The Colonization of Psychic Space: A Psychoanalytic Social Theory of Oppression

Kelly Oliver
Copyright Date: 2004
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    The Colonization of Psychic Space
    Book Description:

    Eloquently arguing that we cannot explain the development of individuality or subjectivity apart from its social context, Kelly Oliver makes a powerful case for recognizing the social aspects of alienation and the psychic aspects of oppression. Oliver explores the ways in which the alienation unique to oppression leads to depression or violence; and how these affects can be transformed into agency, individuality, solidarity, and community.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9671-0
    Subjects: Psychology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Introduction: Why Turn to Psychoanalysis for a Social Theory of Oppression?
    (pp. xiii-xxiv)

    Many theorists who approach social theory using a psychoanalytic framework do so by applying psychoanalytic concepts to social phenomena.¹ They take concepts like melancholy, desire, or abjection and extrapolate from the individual to diagnose particular social situations, cultural productions, or the psychic formations of certain groups of people.² Although such concepts have been developed critically, they rarely have been transformed into social concepts; rather, theorists either apply psychoanalytic concepts to the social, show the limits of applying psychoanalytic concepts to the social, or combine psychoanalytic theory with some particular social theory, such as Marx’s or Foucault’s. In this way, either...

  5. Part I Alienation and Its Double
    (pp. 1-2)

    Some contemporary cultural theorists maintain that forms of psychic domination are not unique to oppression but afreet all human beings; or, oppression is the fate of all of us. Some have even suggested that alienation is inherent in the human condition and that oppression and violence are just repetitions of the founding violence at the core of subjectivity, nationality, and humanity.¹ If this is the case, then resistance to domination is futile. As I have argued elsewhere, to delineate the psychic and physical affects of oppression, it is crucial to distinguish constitutive violence inherent in subjectivity and human society from...

  6. Part II The Secretion of Race and Fluidity of Resistance
    (pp. 45-46)

    The “civilizing mission” of colonization could be said to turn on the repression, even foreclosure, of affect. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (1999, 5) says that “this rejection of affect served and serves as the energetic and successful defense of the civilizing mission.” On Spivak’s reading, the foreclosed affect is excluded from the “civilized West” through a projection onto what she calls the “native informant,” the voiceless figure both excluded from, and necessary to, the civilizing mission (6,49). Spivak argues that in the texts of Kant, Hegel, and Marx, autonomy, consciousness, and normativity are defined against their opposites projected onto the native...

  7. Part III Social Melancholy and Psychic Space
    (pp. 83-86)

    Thus far, I have focused on the dynamics of debilitating, or double, alienation unique to oppression and how that alienation shapes the psychic lives of colonized peoples through the transmission of negative affects from colonizer to colonized. More specifically, I considered how European notions of alienation become screens that cover over concrete forms of racist oppression. I postulated that the look of the other causes anxiety not just because that look threatens the freedom of the self but more specifically because that look from those who have been oppressed or repressed so that the Western (male) subject becomes the beneficiary...

  8. Part IV Revolt Singularity, and Forgiveness
    (pp. 153-154)

    To this point, I have analyzed how oppression and domination colonize psychic space through debilitating alienation and the transmission of affects, especially negative ones such as depression, shame, and anger. I have diagnosed the colonization of psychic space as the denial of the social space within which to sublimate drives and affects, especially the negative affects of oppression. Moreover, I have identified that lack of social space with the absence of social support in the form of positive meaning and self-images within dominant values and mainstream culture. This positive meaning is associated with a loving accepting third that supports the...

  9. Conclusion: Ethics of Psychoanalysis; or, Forgiveness as an Alternative to Alienation
    (pp. 195-200)

    It is telling that Frantz Fanon (1968a, 41) describes a “craving for forgiveness” among colonized peoples, a craving satisfied only by a “state of grace” when they rediscover the value in themselves and their culture. Exclusion from the realm of meaning as those incapable of making meaning, as those who do not belong, produces shame and alienation even more painful and treacherous than that imagined by the philosophers of alienation as inherent in becoming a being who means. Those excluded are made ashamed for what is deemed their abject difference; and their “evil” cannot be forgiven because it supposedly contaminates...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 201-222)
  11. Works Cited
    (pp. 223-232)
  12. Index
    (pp. 233-246)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 247-247)