The Freud Museum

Events Archive

15 November 2014
9.30 - 5.00pm

THE ROOTS OF PREJUDICE: PHILOSOPHY AND PSYCHOANALYSIS

International Conference at The Anna Freud Centre

The resurgence of malignant forms of prejudice brings a new sense of urgency to this important subject. With speakers from psycho-social studies, group analysis, philosophy and psychoanalysis, this international conference addresses contemporary manifestations of various forms of prejudice with perspectives on their unconscious dynamics.

Speakers and Titles (see below for Abstracts)

Prejudice as Socially Unconscious
Lene Auestad

The Logic of an Illusion
Brian Klug

Prejudice as Ideology: The creation of ‘Us’ and ‘Them’ groups in society - and psychoanalysis.
Farhad Dalal

Prejudice in the Analytic Setting: From the Socio-political Sphere to the Intra-psychic Domain
Aisha Abbasi

SPEAKERS BIOGRAPHIES

Lene Auestad is PhD in Philosophy from the University of Oslo. She is the founder of the interdisciplinary conference series Psychoanalysis and Politics and the editor of Psychoanalysis and Politics: Exclusion and the Politics of Representation (Karnac 2012) Nationalism and the Body Politic: Psychoanalysis and the Rise of Ethnocentrism and Xenophobia (Karnac 2013) and a book on Hannah Arendt in Norwegian (2011). A book based on her dissertation, Respect, Plurality and Prejudice: A Psychoanalytical and Philosophical Enquiry into the Dynamics of Social Exclusion and Discrimination, is forthcoming from Karnac, 2014.

Brian Klug is Senior Research Fellow in Philosophy at St Benet’s Hall, Oxford, member of the faculty of philosophy at the University of Oxford, and Hon Fellow of the Parkes Institute for the Study of Jewish/ non-Jewish Relations, University of Southampton. In 2012 he was Visiting Scholar at the International Centre for Muslim and non-Muslim Understanding, University of South Australia, Adelaide. He is an Associate Editor of Patterns of Prejudice and has published extensively on racism, including a chapter in Racialization and Religion: Race, Culture and Difference in the Study of Antisemitism and Islamophobia (Routledge, 2014). His most recent books are Offence: The Jewish Case (2009) and Being Jewish and Doing Justice: Bringing Argument to Life (2011).

Farhad Dalal is a psychotherapist and Group Analyst in private practice in Devon. He also works with organizations. He is Visiting Professor at the PhD School, Open University of Holland. He has published three books, Taking the Group Seriously, Race, Colour and the Processes of Racialization, and his most recent book Thought Paralysis: The Virtues of Discrimination, is a constructive critique of the Equality movements. Currently he is working on a critique of CBT and is convening a conference on this theme in the near future www.limbus.org.u/cbt.

Aisha Abbasi, MD, graduated from Fatima Jinnah Medical College in Lahore, Pakistan. She moved to America with her husband, Aamer, in 1987 and completed a residency in psychiatry at Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit, MI. She trained to become a psychoanalyst at the Michigan Psychoanalytic Institute, where she is now a Training and Supervising Analyst, and current President of the Institute . She has presented and published on a variety of analytic topics, and is co-chair of a discussion group, “Initiating Psychoanalysis: From Evaluation, to Recommendation, and Beyond,” which convenes annually at the national meetings of the American Psychoanalytic Association. She is on the Editorial Board of the Psychoanalytic Quarterly, and the author of The Rupture of Serenity: External Intrusions and Psychoanalytic Technique (Karnac Books). Her collection of Urdu poetry, Ek Dunya Meray Andar Hai (The World Within), was published in Pakistan in 2007. A number of poems from the collection have been translated into English and published in the U.S.A.

ABSTRACTS

Prejudice as Socially Unconscious
Lene Auestad
This paper presents a case for framing a questioning of prejudice, not in terms of normality versus pathology or deviance, but in terms of what is socially un- or preconscious. Since we form part of a social system where some prejudices are ‘valid’, and therefore not thought of as prejudices, they are often not spotted when they occur. Prejudiced articulations may appear illogical, yet stating this misses the point in so far as they are expressions of a different – primary process – logic. We may speak of condensation and displacement, described by Freud as characteristics of unconscious thought processes, as unfolding in public space when people are portrayed as masses and become mere objects of discourse, when groups are depicted as inwardly homogenous entities that are rigidly distinct. Hypocrisy and double standards inhere in our social practices, which express how we believe, and at the same time do not believe, in equal human dignity. Thus understanding prejudice involves taking account of conflicts between theory and practice, layers of explicit- and implicitness, pre- and unconscious experience, and the power differentials that shape these constellations.

The Logic of an Illusion
Brian Klug
In The Future of an Illusion, Freud points out that an illusion “is not the same thing as an error; nor is it necessarily an error”. Although he was writing about religion, his remark applies also to the subject of this talk: prejudice against Muslims and Jews (Islamophobia and antisemitism). Via a number of scenarios, real and imaginary, I shall offer a logical (rather than psycho) analysis of these concepts, with a view to bringing them into sharper focus. I shall argue that while antisemitism and Islamophobia each has its own specific logic, those logics overlap. Moreover, they share the same general logic – the logic of all forms of ‘othering’ – which is what underlies the difference between error and illusion. Thus, each form of prejudice points beyond itself to others; unless we ‘join the dots’ that connect them we do not understand the logic of each.

Prejudice as Ideology: The creation of ‘Us’ and ‘Them’ groups in society (and psychoanalysis).
Farhad Dalal

Prejudices are never experienced as prejudice; they always seem reasonable. Forms of multiculturalism presume that we are prone to prejudice when we are faced with strangers whose ways and looks we are unfamiliar with. They think that one can be taught to think and experience differently though a process of familiarization and education. This work takes place in the conscious realm.

Psychoanalysis meanwhile provides a range of explanations that have their sources in the workings of the internal worlds of individuals. The main culprit here is the mechanism of projection. To this way of thinking, the antidote to prejudice is greater self-knowledge and a better understanding of one’s internal world. This work is grounded in the unconscious realm.

Whilst each of these discourses has its merits, neither explanation is sufficient in itself. I think that this is because neither gives sufficient weight to the way power relations structure psyche as well as social context. I will argue that an understanding of the human condition grounded in the works of Norbert Elias and Donald Winnicott provides us with a deeper way of grasping the workings of prejudice.

Finally I will use these ways of thinking to draw attention to, and think about, the forms of prejudice (and the rationales that bolster them) that the world of psychoanalysis is prone to.

Prejudice in the Analytic Setting: From the Socio-political Sphere to the Intra-psychic Domain
Aisha Abbasi
In this paper, Aisha Abbasi, a psychoanalyst of Pakistani and Muslim origin, working in the United States since 1987, distills almost twenty five years of experience in working across the boundaries of ethnicity, religion, and culture. She focuses specifically on the manifestations of prejudice in the analytic setting, rationalized initially because of profound external differences between patient and analyst. She begins with the pre 9/11 era, and goes on to the post 9/11 one, including the discovery and death of Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad, her hometown in Pakistan. Dr. Abbasi offers detailed material from her analytic work with patients, during all these periods, and demonstrates how the individual life histories of her patients, and their internal worlds, deeply influence their view of the socio-political aspects of their external world. Furthermore, she shares her discoveries of her own prejudices, and her understanding of them, demonstrating that when dealing with prejudice in the analytic setting, intense feelings are present on both sides of the couch. Abbasi takes us from the socio-political sphere, to the inner world of her patients, and herself. In addition, she utilizes this understanding of intra-psychic conflict, to shed some light on the expression and manifestation of prejudice in the world we a live in.

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