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Explorations in Psychoanalytic Ethnography

Explorations in Psychoanalytic Ethnography

Edited by Jadran Mimica
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Explorations in Psychoanalytic Ethnography
    Book Description:

    Whereas most anthropological research is grounded in social, cultural and biological analysis of the human condition, this volume opens up a different approach: its concerns are the psychic depths of human cultural life-worlds as explored through psycho-analytic practice and/or the psychoanalytically framed ethnographic project. In fact, some contributors here argue that the anthropological interpretation of human existence is not sustainable without psychoanalysis; others take a less extreme radical stance but still maintain that the unconscious matrix of the human psyche and of the intersubjective (social) reality of any given cultural life-world is a vital domain of anthropological and sociological inquiry and understanding.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-694-6
    Subjects: Sociology, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction: Explorations in Psychoanalytic Ethnography
    (pp. 1-24)
    Jadran Mimica

    This collection of essays is about psychoanalytic ethnography. Its concern is the psychic depths of human cultural life-worlds as explored through psychoanalytic practice and/or the psychoanalytically framed ethnographic project. The authors engage various aspects of the human condition within a wide range of conceptual frameworks that are representative of contemporary psychoanalytic understanding and practice. The anthropological contributions come from scholars whose ethnographic research is grounded in psychoanalysis and whose overall approach to human existence is articulated in terms of or gravitates toward psychoanalysis as a foundational framework for anthropological understanding. A strong version of this position (not shared by all...

  5. Chapter 1 Culture and Psychoanalysis: A Personal Journey
    (pp. 25-44)
    Sudhir Kakar

    My interest in the role of culture in psychoanalysis did not begin as an abstract intellectual exercise but rather as a matter of vital personal import. Without my quite realizing it at the time, it commenced when I started as an analyst more than 30 years ago upon entering a five-day-a-week training session with a German analyst at the Sigmund-Freud-Institut in Frankfurt. At first, I registered the role of culture in my analysis as a series of niggling feelings of discomfort whose source remained incomprehensible for many months. Indeed, many years were to pass before I began to comprehend the...

  6. Chapter 2 Aspects of the Naven Ritual: Conversations with an Iatmul Woman of Papua New Guinea
    (pp. 45-76)
    Florence Weiss and Milan Stanek

    At the end of the 1920s and the beginning of the 1930s, a young British scientist, Gregory Bateson, undertook fieldwork in Papua New Guinea. The most important results were published in 1936 in his acclaimed book,Naven: A Survey of the Problems Suggested by a Composite Picture of the Culture of a New Guinea Tribe Drawn from Three Points of View.¹ Following the conceptual leads of Margaret Mead and especially Ruth Benedict, Bateson attempted to establish a general picture of the cultural structure of the Iatmul people, considering in the process various epistemological problems.² Much later in the 1970s and...

  7. Chapter 3 Descended from the Celestial Rope: From the Father to the Son, and from the Ego to the Cosmic Self
    (pp. 77-105)
    Jadran Mimica

    The people I write about are the four central Yagwoia-Angan territorial groups (‘tribes’) in the borderlands of the Eastern Highlands, Morobe, and Gulf Provinces of eastern Papua New Guinea (Mimica 1981, 1988, 1991). The empirical domains alluded to in the title are the Yagwoia cultural imaginary (Castoriadis 1987) and the archetypal dynamics that generate their kinship sociality. The specific configuration of relatedness that I will focus on could be glossed as ‘patrifiliation’. This, however, is misleading. In terms of the Yagwoia self-constitution, one deals with a living and protracted process of the incorporation of the paternal ‘bone’. Although it accounts...

  8. Chapter 4 To Dream, Perchance to Cure: Dreaming and Shamanism in a Brazilian Indigenous Society
    (pp. 106-120)
    Waud H. Kracke

    The anthropologist Jackson S. Lincoln ([1935] 1970), whose bookThe Dream in Primitive Cultureswas the first extensive review of anthropological studies of dreaming in other cultures, argued that dreams in which the dreamer receives a direct message from God, or from one of the deities, are so rigorously defined by cultural belief that they are not amenable to personal interpretation. Dreams of directives or communications from a supernatural figure, which he dubbed “cultural pattern dreams,” are held to be so stereotyped in form as not to allow of the expression of any personal meaning that could be interpreted psychoanalytically....

  9. Chapter 5 A Psychoanalytic Revisiting of Fieldwork and Intercultural Borderlinking
    (pp. 121-147)
    René Devisch

    My work combines both a phenomenological-anthropological and a psychoanalytic perspective. Through their reciprocal elucidation, I intend to reflect upon my experiences and work. More pointedly, this self-scrutiny of a European anthropologist’s immersion in the lives of subaltern subjects in central Africa raises radical questions of an intersubjective, intercultural, and epistemological nature. It calls for a revisiting of the anthropological endeavor, which all too often is merely appropriative, objectifying, or even othering. Post-colonial, feminist, and subaltern studies, developing in the context of the West’s loss of its central and hegemonic position in today’s increasingly multi-centered world scene occupied by heterogeneous civilizations...

  10. Chapter 6 On Tjukurrpa, Painting Up, and Building Thought
    (pp. 148-172)
    Craig San Roque

    Psychoanalysis is mostly about a strange activity that occurs between people, calmly seated, oddly speaking. When two men sat in their conception conversation in Vienna in 1907, the older said to the younger, “And tell me, what do you think of the transference?” The younger responded, “It is the alpha and the omega of the analytic method.” And the older said, “Then you have grasped the main thing” (Jung [1954] 1966: 172).

    The capacity of a person to be a psychoanalyst rests upon his or her grasp of theory and aptitude for observational technique in the fieldwork of the psyche,...

  11. Chapter 7 A Cartography of Mental Health
    (pp. 173-185)
    Renata Volich Eisenbruch

    Psychoanalysis as a clinical practice entails perspectives on suffering and mental health different from those espoused by psychiatry. Psychoanalysis, though, is on familiar terms with psychiatry, both in hospitals and in consulting rooms. Many who come to the consulting rooms for psychoanalysis are medicated, and many psychiatrists may use the psychodynamic perspective when treating a suffering being. A multitude of disturbances, some quite acute, affect people regardless of their age and ethnicity. Some maladies are characteristic of certain historical periods and their socio-cultural conditions. The epidemic of suicide among adolescents appears to be a hallmark of modern times. Autism, the...

  12. Chapter 8 Psychotic Group Text: A Psychoanalytic Inquiry into the Production of Moral Conscience
    (pp. 186-203)
    James M. Glass

    Political theorists have historically argued that disintegration anxiety represents deep psychological dislocations within the social environment. Unstable political regimes, political violence, disintegrating values, and crumbling borders suggest radical fissures in the structure of the self, in human nature. Urgency over decline and disintegration appears, for example, in such famous treatises as Plato’sLaws, Hobbes’sLeviathan, Machiavelli’sPrince, Rousseau’sDiscourse on the Origins of Inequality, and de Tocqueville’sDemocracy in America. However, the psychological dynamic that establishes disintegration anxiety as a defining political presence is paranoia, and the classic theoretical formulations of political paranoia can be found in theLawsand...

  13. Chapter 9 Interpreting Numinous Experiences
    (pp. 204-223)
    Dan Merkur

    Oskar Pfister long ago proposed that religious healing can successfully promote psychotherapeutic change, as gauged by psychoanalytic standards, when the religious practices happen to deploy religious symbolism in fashions that the unconscious super-ego can use to achieve insights. The therapeutic action of religious healing is precisely parallel to the use of symbolism in play therapy (Pfister 1932; see also Devereux 1958; Haartman 2004; Merkur 1995–1996, 2004, 2005). Both procedures rest on an unconscious process that Freud ([1913] 1958: 259) had noted: “Psychoanalysis has shown us that everyone possesses in his unconscious mental activity an apparatus which enables him to...

  14. Chapter 10 The Religion of Psychoanalysis, or Ode to a Nightingale
    (pp. 224-238)
    Shahid Najeeb

    Freud would probably have been horrified by the title of this article, for we all know about his intense antagonism toward religion, which he regarded as little more than “the universal obsessional neurosis of humanity” (Freud [1927] 1961: 43). He considered the obsessive magical thoughts and the compulsive rituals that are such central parts of any religion as methods of dealing with anxiety: “[D]evout believers are safeguarded against the risk of certain neurotic illnesses; their acceptance of the universal neurosis spares them the task of constructing a personal one.” It is an interpretation that religious people would understandably not concur...

  15. Subject Index
    (pp. 239-242)
  16. Names Index
    (pp. 243-246)