Psychoanalysis Beyond the West

Psychoanalysis as both a therapeutic practice and theoretical apparatus has moved far beyond turn of the century Vienna. While many scholars have argued that psychoanalysis only obtains within this particular social, cultural, and political context (or, at the very least, “similar” contexts), others have argued that psychoanalysis taps into “universal” dimensions of human psychological and social life. Psychoanalytic scholarship has inspired an enormous range of anthropological work—from Amazonia to Sudan, Morocco to Melanesia—and the debates of its transcultural applicability are by no means dead. Renowned anthropologist Henrietta Moore, for example, has recently argued that while symbolic structures differ across cultural contexts, cultural anthropologists working across regions cannot do without the conceptual tools that psychoanalysis provides.

This year we will attempt to grapple with the “portability” of psychoanalysis as both social theory and therapeutic practice, exploring its deployment across a range of regional and historical contexts. Insofar as many debates about the regional applicability of psychoanalysis have been implicitly or explicitly set against the supposed sociocultural and political coherence of “the West,” we will pay particular attention to contexts outside of Europe and the United States.

This topic should interest a wide range of graduate students in the humanities and social sciences, whether they are interested in the contemporary relevance of psychoanalysis or, more broadly speaking, in the portability of conceptual frameworks across space and time.

Contact: Luke F. Johnson