Aboriginal Populations in the Mind

Aboriginal Populations in the Mind: Race and Primitivity in Psychoanalysis

Celia Brickman
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 320
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/bric12582
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  • Book Info
    Aboriginal Populations in the Mind
    Book Description:

    What part does racial difference play in psychoanalysis? What can be learned when considering this question from a postcolonial perspective? In this subtle and commanding analysis, Celia Brickman explores how the colonialist racial discourse of late-nineteenth-century anthropology found its way into Freud´s work, where it came to play a covert but crucial role in his notions of subjectivity. Brickman argues that the common psychoanalytic concept of "primitivity" as an early stage of psychological development unavoidably carries with it implications of an anthropologically understood "primitivity," which was conceived by Freud -and perhaps still is today -in colonialist and racial terms. She relates the racial subtext embedded in Freud´s thought to his representations of gender and religion and shows how this subtext forms part of the larger historicizing trend of the psychoanalytic project. Finally, she shows how colonialist traces have made their way into the blueprint for the clinical psychoanalytic relationship and points to contemporary trends in psychoanalysis that may make possible a disengagement from this legacy.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-50089-0
    Subjects: Psychology, Sociology, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    How does psychoanalysis configure racial difference, and what do we learn when we consider this question from a postcolonial perspective? This issue began to press itself upon me as I pursued interdisciplinary academic work in the humanities and the social sciences while I was engaged in psychoanalytically based psychotherapeutic work. It first made itself apparent to me as I repeatedly encountered, within these two different frameworks, markedly differing uses and evaluations of the category of primitivity. In the academy I was confronted with the trenchant critiques of postcolonial theorists who considered the idea of “the primitive” to be a long-abandoned...

  5. Chapter 1 The Figure of the Primitive: A Brief Genealogy
    (pp. 15-50)

    The use of the figure of the primitive in psychoanalysis is so common it is difficult to recognize that it is, as this book argues, the key to the code of racial difference embedded in psychoanalytic discourse. In spite of the apparent straightforwardness of its meaning, the psychoanalytic term primitive is overdetermined, drawing on two differing but overlapping genealogies. On the one hand, the term has a neutral, impartial meaning when used scientifically, in mathematics or in logic, or when applied to geological or anatomical structures. The definitions offered in the massive entry in the Oxford English Dictionary under the...

  6. Chapter 2 Psychoanalysis and the Colonial Imagination: Evolutionary Thought in Freud’s Texts
    (pp. 51-89)

    At the dawn of the twentieth century Freud introduced the first works of what would become his towering contribution to western thought. Both a theory of psyche and society and a therapeutic system, his new “science” of psychoanalysis harbored a host of unsettling propositions concerning the formative role played by infantile sexuality in the constitution of subjectivity, the primacy of the hidden determinants of waking consciousness, and the significance of dreams, symptoms, and slips of the tongue as the inadvertent disguises of unconscious desire. The disturbing implications of Freud’s thought were, however, set in a discursive framework that reflected the...

  7. Chapter 3 Race and Gender, Primitivity and Femininity: Psychologies of Enthrallment
    (pp. 90-130)

    In Totem and Taboo Freud gave an account of the origins of psyche and society that cast contemporary psychological development as a recapitulation of a racially conceived evolutionary trajectory of culture. This conception of the genealogy of modern subjectivity contributed to the foundations of Freud’s metapsychological theories; and its assumptions emerged, among other places, in his descriptions of the unconscious, characterized as the sedimentation of earlier stages of developmental/evolutionary growth. Because of this characterization, regression could be seen to pave a road not only between consciousness and the unconscious and between well-being and psychopathology but also between the present and...

  8. Chapter 4 Historicizing Consciousness: Time, History, and Religion
    (pp. 131-173)

    While the previous chapter drew out the logic of primitivity and race internal to psychoanalysis, this chapter places these psychoanalytic issues in conversation with contemporary postcolonial critiques of anthropology. Postcolonial theorists have criticized the ways that anthropological writings, not only of the nineteenth but also of the twentieth century, have negotiated cultural differences by conceiving them as temporal differences: the cultural other, if no longer conceived of as lower on the evolutionary scale, nonetheless has continued to be cast as less advanced in historical development. The placing of non-western peoples in the past through their inscription as primitive lives on...

  9. Chapter 5 Primitivity in the Analytic Encounter
    (pp. 174-199)

    How does the racial subtext of psychoanalysis, constellated around its category of primitivity and embedded in its evolutionary and historicizing tendencies, affect its therapeutic practice? It seems that Freud was aware, however dimly, of a racial coding in the clinical practice of psychoanalysis, as can be seen by an “old joke” he used to tell that alluded to psychoanalytic patients as “Negroes.” This joke was recently brought to light by Claudia Tate, who discovered it (where it has been all along for anyone to see) in the third volume of Ernest Jones’s biography of Freud. Jones traces this joke, which...

  10. Epilogue
    (pp. 200-208)

    Over the last decades of the twentieth century, the authoritarian tendencies of the traditional structures of psychoanalysis, like the colonial influences of early anthropology with which they are linked, have increasingly come under question, and alternative forms of conceiving both the analytic encounter and the knowledge it generates have been taking shape. Although American psychoanalysis has not been subject to a postcolonial critique from within its ranks as has anthropology, epistemological questions similar to those that have been raised in the anthropological field are being raised among certain schools of psychoanalysis, challenging the traditionally unchallengeable authority of the analyst and...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 209-254)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 255-272)
  13. Index
    (pp. 273-286)