The Freud Museum

Events Archive

3 July 2011
9.30 - 5.00pm

PSYCHOANALYSIS, JUDAISM AND MODERNITY

Day Conference

Sunday 3 July
at the Anna Freud Centre

A day of talks and discussion exploring the links between these three great cultural phenomena, and the lessons that can be learned for the 'post-modern' age of today.

Stephen Frosh
Psychosocial textuality: Religious identities and textual constructions (abstract)

Jay Geller
"A State within a State": Freud's Disavowal of Antisemitism (abstract)

Vic Seidler
Embodying psychoanalysis: Masculinities, Judaism and the crisis of modernity (abstract)

Judit Szekacs and Tom Keve
Golem et al (abstract)

Devorah Baum
Psychoanalysis, Judaism, and the broken promise of modernity (abstract)

Speakers' Biographies

Stephen Frosh is Professor of Psychology and Director of the Centre for Psychosocial Studies at Birkbeck College, University of London. He is the author of many books on psychoanalysis and social theory, including Hate and the Jewish Science: Anti-Semitism, Nazism and Psychoanalysis (2005), The politics of psychoanalysis (1999), and Psychoanalysis outside the Clinic: Interventions in Psychosocial Studies (2010). His latest book Feelings (2011) is published by Routledge.

Jay Geller is Associate Professor of Modern Jewish Culture at Vanderbilt University, former Fulbright/Sigmund Freud Society Visiting Scholar of Psychoanalysis (Vienna), and currently Visiting Fellow at the Center for the Study of Jewish-Christian Relations (Cambridge, UK). He is the author of On Freud’s Jewish Body: Mitigating Circumcisions (Fordham, 2007) and The Other Jewish Question: Identifying the Jew and Making Sense of Modernity (Fordham, June 2011). He also co-edited Reading Freud’s Reading (NYU, 1994), a collection that grew out of an NEH Summer Seminar conducted at the Freud Museum.

Victor Jeleniewski Seidler has written widely in social theory and philosophy as well as on the critical studies of men and masculinities. He has also written on the legacies of the Holocaust in Shadows of the Shoah: Jewish Identity and Belonging (Berg, Oxford) and his most recent work includes JEWISH PHILOSOPHY AND WESTERN CULTURE (Ib tauris, London) and EMBODYING IDENTITIES: Culture, Differences and Social Theory (Policy Press, Bristol, 2010) His latest book REMEMBERING DIANA: Cultural Memory and the Reinvention of Authority will be published by Palgrave in Autumn 2011.

Judit Szekacs is a bi-lingual psychoanalyst who came to the UK from Hungary in 1990. Together with a small group of psychoanalysts, therapists, artists and social scientists, she founded Imago East-West and later the Multilingual Psychotherapy Centre (MLPC) to create a space where diverse experiences of negotiating cultural and linguistic change could be explored and shared. In 2001 she organized, together with Kathleen Kelley-Laine and Judith Meszaros, the Lost Childhood Conferences in Budapest, London and Paris, resulting in the book Lost Childhood and the Language of Exile (2004) published by the Freud Museum and MLPC. She writes about body-and-mind, trauma, emigration, changing context, new technology and Social Dreaming.

Tom Keve is a scientist and fellow of the Institute of Physics. Born in Budapest, he came to England as a refugee in 1956 and has since travelled widely in the United States, Holland and France. He is the author of the highly acclaimed Triad: The physicists, the analysts, the kabbalists (2000) in which he brings together several of his fields of research - quantum physics, psychoanalysis, Central European Jewish history and kabbalah – into a single factual work.

Devorah Baum teaches in the Department of English at Southampton University. Her interests include the revival of religion, the influence of religion on contemporary literature and philosophy, the relationship between religion and violence, and Jewish literature and philosophy. Publications include 'Nothing and the Jews', (2009), 'Trauma: An Essay on Jewish Guilt', (2009), and (with Josh Appignanesi) 'Ex Memoria: Filming The Face: Memorialisation, Dementia and the Ethics Of Representation', in Third Text (January 2006).

Abstracts

Stephen Frosh: This talk looks critically at the kind of performative text that is drawn upon by members of religious groups to define their group identity and to lend meaning to individual experiences. It is suggested that ‘psychosocial’ readings, which draw on narrative, discursive and psychoanalytic traditions of interpretation, might embrace a political project of opening out these texts for inspection of the subjugated or alternative narratives embedded in them. An example is given of the Biblical text of the binding of Isaac, which functions in the Jewish tradition as a key source for moral and religious identity formation. It is argued that psychosocial readings have to embrace both an ‘insider’ and an ‘outsider’ view of such texts, and in particular to deploy a marginal practice that acknowledges as well as contests traditional or ‘orthodox’ readings.

Jay Geller: Freud undertook his most significant discussion of the sources of antisemitism in Moses and Monotheism. It supplements his genealogy of religion as seen through the temporal schema of trauma. When he then turns to various theories about the origin of antisemitism, he does not draw upon his account of defence against trauma—one that he had just described, curiously using a phrase from the archive of antisemitic discourse, as "a state within a state.” This talk, after discussing what Freud does say about antisemitism, turns back to Moses’s new theorization of defence in terms of disavowal and splitting of the ego and locates there the fetishistic remains of another theory of antisemitism that, in the face of its possible genocidal telos, Freud may have traumatically disavowed. It is the road not taken—but indeed mapped—by Freud in his analysis of antisemitism on the eve of the Shoah.

Vic Seidler: This paper will explore some of the complexities in the relationship between judaism and psychoanalysis and the ways they frame a questioning of Enlightenment modernities constructed around gendered notions of a rational self. Through exploring how a recognition of bodies and processes of embodiment have been tied up with dominant notions of European masculinities we learn to think in different terms about bodies and emotional lives as sources of knowledge and learn to imagine different layers of embodied experience and identities.

Judit Szekacs and Tom Keve: Created out of river mud by mediaeval Rabbis and mystically brought to life by them in order to serve, the Golem has metamorphosed more than once. First myth, then tradition, it became an inspiration to the arts and transmuted itself into a symbol - a metaphor for the individual’s need to control the external world, as well as for his quest for autonomy, identity and protection. It symbolises our mystical past as well our technologically dominated future. It is slave. It is protector. It is shorthand for the creative drive and for both the constructive and destructive aspects of human creation; therefore especially relevant in the 21st century.

In our presentations we will discuss historical-cultural aspects of the GOLEM (Tom Keve) and psychoanalytical-clinical dimensions of it (Judit Szekacs)

Devorah Baum: Psychoanalysis has been at the centre of our most ‘modern’ ways of thinking, yet it has frequently been haunted by the issue of its own ancestry in the form of a certain ‘Jewish question’. This paper will suggest that psychoanalysis is as sceptical as it is constitutive of modernity by reflecting on a number of philosophical convergences between Freudian and Jewish hermeneutic traditions. Specifically, I will present a psychoanalytically informed reading of an ancient Talmudic text in which a rabbinic figure of the heretic (the subject who believes he can live outside the law) strikingly resembles that of the modern intellectual.

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