Intersectionality, Social Context, and the Co-Creation of Clinical Experience

Third Year Adult Psychoanalytic Training (APT)
2022-23, 3rd Trimester — Fridays, 3:30-5:00pm


Introduction

Intersectionality describes the way in which identity encompasses a number of dimensions including race, ethnicity, nationality, immigration status, gender and gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic class, religion, ability, age, and the way in which these aspects of the self are lived in a particular social context. These ontological categories are also limiting, culturally bound, and imbued with power dynamics, conscious and unconscious. These dynamics are present in every clinical encounter, whether or not they are consciously experienced or addressed and whether or not the analyst and patient experience themselves as similar or different from one another (along multiple axes). In this ten-session class, we have chosen to focus attention on current psychoanalytic theories about identity, internalization of racism, defensive structures, and dissociation. We are highlighting major concepts and theories that are foundational to contemporary psychoanalysis. 

At the conclusion of this course, we hope that you will read and engage with theory and clinical material with a deeper understanding and curiosity about layers of identity – your own and those of your patients. We have chosen materials we hope will spark discussion. We welcome you to talk with us about your experience in class as we proceed. 

In a presentation to the New Center for Psychoanalysis in 2021, Anton Hart noted that the idea that individuals could eliminate “blind spots” is inconsistent with psychoanalysis. In his words, “we are all blind to aspects of ourselves and if we are able to become aware of our pervasive blindness and more receptive to the presence of our biases, we will be better able to persist in deep and uncomfortable conversation and listen with less chance of inflicting our biases on others.” As instructors, our hope is to encourage self-reflection and genuine engagement, yours and ours. Our subjective experiences are unique and we exist together in a sociocultural and historical context. We will inevitably enact unconscious dynamics, get uncomfortable and over our heads. At those moments, we hope we can help one another notice the need to pause, slow down and unpack enactments that may be occurring. Specifically, we will all need to attend to how power arises and is used, whose experience tends to be centered, whose experience may be marginalized and how we relate with one another as we explore this material.

Learning Objectives

At the end of this course, candidates will:

  1. have engaged with current psychoanalytic ideas about the relationship between the intrapsychic and intersubjective within our social and historical context.
  2. understand more consciously the ways in which we defensively veer away from or foreclose interpersonal and clinical moments related to difference, power and social context.
  3. have explored psychoanalytic ideas about racism, racial melancholia, adaptive defenses to racial trauma, normative unconscious processes and their clinical applications.
  4. have greater awareness of the intrasubjective and intersubjective dynamics related to racialized enactments and understand ways of responding clinically. 5. Understand contemporary theories related to intergenerational transmission of racial trauma.

March 24, 2023 — Ontology, Radical Openness, and the Normative Unconscious

[30 pages]

We chose the readings for this first class to get us thinking about subjectivity, categorization, the power behind who defines our categories and how this plays out within us and between us in groups. We will consider what occurs intrapsychically and what gets enacted relationally when subjectivities come into contact. Hart asks us to think about how we listen and advocates an ethic of taking the other into one’s care. He notes that listening with “radical openness” involves relinquishing what we think we know and an openness to what we might not know or recognize about ourselves. His ideas about safety, risk and recognition will guide our opening discussion about how we will engage with one another in class.

Hart, A. (2017). From multicultural competence to radical openness: A psychoanalytic engagement of otherness. In The American Psychoanalyst, 51(1), pp.12-27.

Hunt, S. (2014). Ontologies of Indigeneity: the politics of embodying a concept. Cultural Geographies. 21(1): 27-32.

Layton, L. (2020) Author’s general introduction in Toward A Social Psychoanalysis (Leavy-Sperounis, M., Ed), New York, Routledge, pp.xxviii-xxxv

March 31, 2023 — Evasions of Invitations to Think

[21 pages]

Both Brooks and Dajani talk about idealization, identification, and orthodoxy as potential barriers to our ability to think about race and culture in psychoanalysis.

Brooks, O. (2014). Race and our evasions of invitations to think: how identifications and idealizations may prevent us from thinking. in Thinking Space: Promoting Thinking about Race, Culture, and Diversity in Psychotherapy and Beyond (Lowe, F., Ed.), New York: Routledge. pp.35-55.

Dajani, K. (2022) “Culture and the Unconscious” on Voices from Room Podcast, October 5, 2022. (34 minutes)

April 7, 2023 — Internal Racism

[62 pages]

M. Fakhry Davids, a British psychoanalyst, has formulated a theory of how racism becomes an internal structure in the mind. His theory posits that “the internal racist organization is . . . a pathological organization that occurs in the “normal” mind,” built on a projective process interacting with awareness of the social meanings of difference in the external world. The reading is dense but rich and very thought provoking. Our plan is to spend two weeks talking about Davids’ ideas and we encourage you to consider reading it through a second time.

Davids, M. Fakhry. (2011) Ch1, Introduction. in Internal Racism: a Psychoanalytic Approach to Race and Difference, pp1-16

Read pages 1-7, stopping mid-page 7.

Davids, M. Fakhry. (2011) Ch2, A Clinical Study of a Racist Attack. in Internal Racism: a Psychoanalytic Approach to Race and Difference, pp19-36

Davids, M. Fakhry. (2011) Ch3, Theoretical considerations. In Internal Racism: a Psychoanalytic Approach to Race and Difference, pp37-64

April 14, 2023 — Internal Racism

[62 pages]

M. Fakhry Davids, a British psychoanalyst, has formulated a theory of how racism becomes an internal structure in the mind. His theory posits that “the internal racist organization is . . . a pathological organization that occurs in the “normal” mind,” built on a projective process interacting with awareness of the social meanings of difference in the external world. The reading is dense but rich and very thought provoking. Our plan is to spend two weeks talking about Davids’ ideas and we encourage you to consider reading it through a second time.

Davids, M. Fakhry. (2011) Ch1, Introduction. in Internal Racism: a Psychoanalytic Approach to Race and Difference, pp1-16

Read pages 1-7, stopping mid-page 7.

Davids, M. Fakhry. (2011) Ch2, A Clinical Study of a Racist Attack. in Internal Racism: a Psychoanalytic Approach to Race and Difference, pp19-36

Davids, M. Fakhry. (2011) Ch3, Theoretical considerations. In Internal Racism: a Psychoanalytic Approach to Race and Difference, pp37-64

April 21, 2023 — Racial Melancholia and Racialized Ghosts

[36 pages]

Eng and Han conceptualize racial melancholia as a shared psychic experience related to dislocation, assimilation, and loss. Shah focuses on states of racial melancholia related to intergenerational trauma and the experience of living in a social context that is both profoundly racialized and profoundly uncomfortable with “racial multiplicity.”

The video, History and Memory, brings to life intergenerational transmission of trauma by exploring what is recorded, what is left unrecorded and what is imagined in our collective memory. The filmmaker, Rea Tajiri, uses photos, movie, and propaganda film clips, writing and family interviews to explore an aspect of her family’s history that has haunted her despite her family’s silence and efforts to forget.

Eng, D.L. & Han, S. (2019). Racial melancholia: Model minorities, depression, and suicide. In Racial Melancholia, Racial Dissociation: On the Social and Psychic Lives of Asian Americans. Durham, Duke University Press, pp34-55.

Shah, D. (2022) When Racialized Ghosts Refuse to Become Ancestors: Tasting Loewald’s “Blood of Recognition” in Racial Melancholia and Mixed-Race Identities, Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 32:6, 584-597

Tajiri, R. (1991). History and Memory.

32-minute video available with a public or university library card, please let instructors know if you have a barrier to accessing and we will help.

https://www.kanopy.com/product/history-and-memory-akiko-and-takashige

April 28, 2023 — Racial Melancholia and Racialized Ghosts

[36 pages]

Eng and Han conceptualize racial melancholia as a shared psychic experience related to dislocation, assimilation, and loss. Shah focuses on states of racial melancholia related to intergenerational trauma and the experience of living in a social context that is both profoundly racialized and profoundly uncomfortable with “racial multiplicity.”

The video, History and Memory, brings to life intergenerational transmission of trauma by exploring what is recorded, what is left unrecorded and what is imagined in our collective memory. The filmmaker, Rea Tajiri, uses photos, movie, and propaganda film clips, writing and family interviews to explore an aspect of her family’s history that has haunted her despite her family’s silence and efforts to forget.

Eng, D.L. & Han, S. (2019). Racial melancholia: Model minorities, depression, and suicide. In Racial Melancholia, Racial Dissociation: On the Social and Psychic Lives of Asian Americans. Durham, Duke University Press, pp34-55.

Shah, D. (2022) When Racialized Ghosts Refuse to Become Ancestors: Tasting Loewald’s “Blood of Recognition” in Racial Melancholia and Mixed-Race Identities, Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 32:6, 584-597

Tajiri, R. (1991). History and Memory.

32-minute video available with a public or university library card, please let instructors know if you have a barrier to accessing and we will help.

https://www.kanopy.com/product/history-and-memory-akiko-and-takashige

May 5, 2023 — Rage, Humor and Resistance as Adaptive Defense

[28 pages]

Stoute proposes Black Rage as a functional adaptation that protects against internalizing racist aggression and devaluation and can inspire psychic growth.  Also, she describes how this construct arises in the context of the intergenerational transmission of both trauma and sources of resilience in the face of oppression.    We have allowed two weeks to discuss and explore this complex concept.

The supplemental materials all present various forms of adaptive resistance, that we will consider in the context of Stoute’s theoretical conception.

Stoute, B.J. (2021) Black rage: The Psychic Adaptation to the Trauma of Oppression. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, Handout, 17:395-422.

Atlanta, Season 4, Episode 2 “The Homeliest Little Horse.” Originally aired, September 15, 2022. (Available on Hulu, please let us know if you need access).

Optional Reading

The 1491s are self-described “indigenous misfits” who produce absurdist and satirical comedy in the forms of YouTube videos, film and theatre. They also work to put cameras in the hands of indigenous communities to facilitate people telling their own stories. Some of those videos can be found in the Represent section of the video section of their website www.1491s.com. The two first links are two excerpts from the program from the play Between the Knees currently at Seattle Rep through March 26. The third link is to a Tedx talk two members did in 2015.

https://seattlerep.encoreplus.app/posts/117566/comedy-as-resistance

https://seattlerep.encoreplus.app/posts/117565/a-seriously-scholarly-article-about-the-1491s

The Wing Luke Museum has the following exhibit through September 2023, “Resisters: A Legacy of Movement from the Japanese American Incarceration.” (Through art, first-person accounts, historical material, and artifacts, this exhibit connects Japanese American resistance movements during the WWII era to modern BIPOC justice movements and activism today). https://www.wingluke.org/exhibits.

May 12, 2023 — Rage, Humor and Resistance as Adaptive Defense

[28 pages]

Stoute proposes Black Rage as a functional adaptation that protects against internalizing racist aggression and devaluation and can inspire psychic growth.  Also, she describes how this construct arises in the context of the intergenerational transmission of both trauma and sources of resilience in the face of oppression.    We have allowed two weeks to discuss and explore this complex concept.

The supplemental materials all present various forms of adaptive resistance, that we will consider in the context of Stoute’s theoretical conception.

Stoute, B.J. (2021) Black rage: The Psychic Adaptation to the Trauma of Oppression. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, Handout, 17:395-422.

Atlanta, Season 4, Episode 2 “The Homeliest Little Horse.” Originally aired, September 15, 2022. (Available on Hulu, please let us know if you need access).

Optional Reading

The 1491s are self-described “indigenous misfits” who produce absurdist and satirical comedy in the forms of YouTube videos, film and theatre. They also work to put cameras in the hands of indigenous communities to facilitate people telling their own stories. Some of those videos can be found in the Represent section of the video section of their website www.1491s.com. The two first links are two excerpts from the program from the play Between the Knees currently at Seattle Rep through March 26. The third link is to a Tedx talk two members did in 2015.

https://seattlerep.encoreplus.app/posts/117566/comedy-as-resistance

https://seattlerep.encoreplus.app/posts/117565/a-seriously-scholarly-article-about-the-1491s

The Wing Luke Museum has the following exhibit through September 2023, “Resisters: A Legacy of Movement from the Japanese American Incarceration.” (Through art, first-person accounts, historical material, and artifacts, this exhibit connects Japanese American resistance movements during the WWII era to modern BIPOC justice movements and activism today). https://www.wingluke.org/exhibits.

May 19, 2023 — Persecutory and depressive guilt, splitting, breakdowns in thinking and the limits of repair

[26 pages]

Caflisch uses contemporary Kleinian conceptualizations of guilt, and particularly persecutory guilt, to explore what gets in the way of white engagement with responsibility, concern, and reparative action. Cyrus grounds the theoretical in the real by discussing Caflisch’s paper in the context of her lived experience and the severity of ongoing racial trauma in our society. By examining the real harm caused by the dynamics of white guilt and the trauma response in those harmed, she takes Caflisch’s ideas to the interpersonal realm.

Caflisch, J. (2020). When reparation is felt to be impossible: Persecutory Guilt and Breakdowns in Thinking and Dialogue about Race. Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 30(5), 578-594.

Cyrus, K. (2020). When reparation is impossible: A Discussion of “When Reparation is felt to be impossible: Persecutory Guilt and Breakdowns in Thinking and Dialogue about Race.” Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 30(5), 595-603.

May 26, 2023 — Decolonization and Psychoanalytic Humility

[19 pages]

Tummala-Narra considers how psychoanalytic concepts, such as ideas about dependency, that were formed in a particular socio-historical context, act to privilege a white, European subjectivity.   She notes how failing to acknowledge these limitations can perpetuate oppression and calls for “psychoanalytic humility” as a basis for decolonizing theory and practice.

Tummala-Narra, P. (2022) Can We Decolonize Psychoanalytic Theory and Practice?. Psychoanalytic Dialogues 32:217-234

Jones, S. (2022). “Black Ice” in Alive at the End of the World: Poems, p.31.