Race and Psychoanalysis: Some Resources for Undergraduate Education and Counseling

by Max Cavitch, Ph.D.

Note: There are terrific posts by Kelli Fuery, Michael McAndrew, Hayley Ng, and others awaiting publication—please be on the lookout for them in the coming weeks and months. In the meantime, given our extraordinary present circumstances and—as educators, students, and clinicians—our need to adapt to them as we prepare for an uncertain new academic year, it seems important to jump the queue with this selected bibliography of resources—to which readers are welcome and encouraged to contribute in the “Comment” section.

Many of us will be spending the summer preparing to resume teaching in a world transformed, not only by Covid-19, but also by the revitalized struggle against systemic assaults on black bodies and minds. The psychic fallout of state-sponsored violence—including racially motivated police brutality and the extrajudicial murder of black men, women, and transgender folk—has scarcely begun to be calculated, much less adequately addressed, by the psychoanalytic community. How might those of us who teach psychoanalysis at the undergraduate level, or provide psychodynamic therapy to college students, do a better job of centering black lives—and matters of race even more broadly—in our classrooms and counseling facilities?

Some of us have already begun to do so, by drawing our students’ attention to both the historical and present-day relations of psychoanalytic theory and practice to matters of race. We teach them about the interwoven histories of psychoanalysis, Judaism, and antisemitism. We point out and try to account for the longstanding racial disparities in access both to psychoanalytic training and to psychoanalytic treatment. We reconfigure our syllabi better to reflect the burgeoning clinical and theoretical literature on race and psychoanalysis. And we critique the still all-too-prevalent view that psychoanalysis should remain aloof from politics and social justice. One of the most important lessons we have to teach our students is that, from its inception, psychoanalysis, at its best, has sought to engage with progressive political thought and to promote social justice.

Yet so much remains to be done—even just in the U.S. alone: Psychoanalytic institutes continue to focus chiefly on training and treating the relatively privileged and the overwhelmingly white. The medical establishment continues to link certain mental disorders to ethnicity and race, rather than to the societal harms that produce them. Racialist thinking continues to impede mourning for and by past and present generations of victims of American slavery and its traumatic sequelae. And white supremacism continues in myriad ways—from the most subtle to the most brazen—to block the decolonization of American minds. These and other failures are not irremediable. Nor do they devalue the extraordinary efforts of past and present educators, clinicians, and theorists to help psychoanalysis step up the pace and quality of its contributions to building a more just and unfettered world. But, if there were ever a time to bring more of this work into our undergraduate classrooms, where psychoanalytic ideas and their progressive potentials are so rarely discussed at all, that time would be now.

To that end, I’ve assembled a selection of resources for educators, clinicians, and students. This is, of course, just a small sampling of what’s available, so I’d like to invite all readers of this blog to use the comment-field to add further resources—particularly, resources that you yourself have used and about which you could, if you like, say just a bit, to give others a sense of why and how you’ve used them. I’d also like to invite readers to propose posts of their own that address specific, race-based issues in the realms of pedagogy, learning, and treatment. If you have an idea for a post, please contact the editor at cavitch@english.upenn.edu.

This select list of readings and viewings links titles to pdf copies, where available, or to other Web-based sources, including publishers’ Web sites, commercial vendors, and the PEP Web database (note: PEP Web requires an institutional or individual subscription). If you have a link to share, please send it to cavitch@english.upenn.edu.

 

books

Elizabeth AbelBarbara Christianand Helene Moglen, eds., Female Subjects in Black and White: Race, Psychoanalysis, Feminism (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997)

Anne Anlin Cheng, The Melancholy of Race: Psychoanalysis, Assimilation, and Hidden Grief (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001)

Fakhry Davids, Internal Racism: A Psychoanalytic Approach to Race and Difference (London: Red Globe Press, 2011)

David L. Eng and Shinhee Han, Racial Melancholia, Racial Dissociation: On the Social and Psychic Lives of Asian Americans (Durham: Duke University Press, 2019)

Patricia Gherovici and Christopher Christian, eds., Psychoanalysis in the Barrios: Race, Class, and the Unconscious (London: Routledge, 2019)

Christopher J. Lane, ed., The Psychoanalysis of Race (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998)

Michelle Anne Stephens, Skin Acts: Race, Psychoanalysis, and the Black Male Performer (Durham: Duke University Press, 2014)

Antonio Viego, Dead Subjects: Toward a Politics of Loss in Latino Studies (Durham: Duke University Press, 2007)

 

articles

Farhad Dalal, “Racism: Processes of Detachment Dehumanization and Hate,” Psychoanalytic Quarterly 75 (2006): 131-161

David L. Eng and Shinhee Han, “A Dialogue on Racial Melancholia,” Psychoanalytic Dialogues 10 (2000): 667-700

Janice P. Gump, “Reality Matters: The Shadow of Trauma on African American Subjectivity,” Psychoanalytic Psychology 27 (2010): 42-54

Dorothy E. Holmes, “The Wrecking Effects of Race and Social Class on Self and Success,” Psychoanalytic Quarterly 75 (2006): 215–35

Kimberlyn Leary, “Racial Enactments in Dynamic Treatment,” Psychoanalytic Dialogues 10 (2000): 639–53

—, “Racial Insult and Repair,” Psychoanalytic Dialogues 17 (2007): 539-549

—, “Race as an Adaptive Challenge: Working with Diversity in the Clinical Consulting Room,” Psychoanalytic Psychology 29 (2012): 279-91

Dionne R. Powell, “Race, African Americans, and Psychoanalysis: Collective Silence in the Therapeutic Conversation,” JAPA 66 (2018): 1021-49

Avgi Saketopoulou, “Minding the Gap: Intersections Between Gender, Race, and Class in Work with Gender Variant Children” Psychoanalytic Dialogues 21 (2011): 192-209

Hortense J. Spillers, “‘All the Things You Could Be by Now If Sigmund Freud’s Wife Was Your Mother’: Psychoanalysis and Race,” Critical Inquiry 22 (1996): 710-34

Melanie Suchet, “A Relational Encounter with Race,” Psychoanalytic Dialogues 14 (2004): 423–38

Kathleen Pogue White, “Surviving Hating and Being Hated: Some Personal Thoughts about Racism from a Psychoanalytic Perspective,” Contemporary Psychoanalysis 38 (2002): 401-22

Alexandra Woods, “The Work Before Us: Whiteness and the Psychoanalytic Institute,” Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society (2020) https://doi.org/10.1057/s41282-019-00155-3

 

films

Basia Winograd, dir., Black Psychoanalysts Speak (2014): a 60-munite documentary intended to raise awareness of the need for more openness and exploration of race in relation to psychoanalytic training, treatment, and institutional life, featuring interviews with C. Jama Adams, Janice Bennett, Kirkland Vaughans, Cleonie White, Kathleen Pogue White, and many others.

Basia Winograd, dir., Psychoanalysis in El Barrio (2016): a 50-minute documentary about Latinx psychoanalysts, their patients, and their communities in the U.S., featuring interviews with Ricardo Ainsle, Christopher Christian, Patricia Gherovici, Maria de Lourdes Mattei, Ernesto Mujica, and many others.

 

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