EssaysIn DepthPsyche

Clinical Psychology, Psychological Science, and Neo-liberal Times

Clinical psychology first emerged as a formal subdiscipline within psychology in the aftermath of World War II. During the war, psychologists were initially hired by the military to play a role assessing recruits for psychological stability, combat readiness, and potential for officer training. They were also charged with the task of evaluating whether soldiers exhibiting symptoms of psychological trauma were experiencing bonafide psychological problems or malingering. Over time as the massive prevalence of psychological trauma became apparent, the demand for professionals capable of providing psychological treatment far exceeded the supply of available psychiatrists, and psychologists increasingly came to play a role as treatment providers as well. …

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EssaysIn DepthPsyche

The Discarded and the Dignified – Part 6

From the Failed Witness to “You are the Eyes of the World”

Embodying the third

Returning to the beginning of this essay, I have tried to suggest how we might view the embodied rather than dissociated self state as part of the reconstruction of the third in the wake of trauma. In her discussion of the Gugaleto Seven case Gobodo-Madikizela (2013) described the interactions between the perpetrator and the victims’ mothers as becoming very intimate. Thus the mother of the slain sons spoke of feeling the pain in her womb — the women and the perpetrator spoke of being parents and son. In expressing his remorse to them, the perpetrator addressed them as his mothers. …

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EssaysIn DepthPsyche

The Discarded and the Dignified – Parts 4 and 5

From the Failed Witness to “You are the Eyes of the World”

Witnessing as repair of the moral third

To imagine a way out of the binary of deserving and discarded requires envisioning a world governed by the third, in which our attachment to all beings as part of the whole is honored as real. That vision of social attachment is a condition of the ethical position of the third, and it is central to Ubuntu, the South African tradition that so deeply informed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. As defined by Desmond Tutu, Ubuntu means: “A person is a person through other persons… ‘my humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up in yours.’…a person with ubuntu …has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed” (Tutu, 1999, p. 31). Our humanity depends on reciprocal recognition of each other and of our ineluctable attachment. …

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EssaysIn DepthPsyche

The Discarded and the Dignified – Part 3

From the Failed Witness to “You are the Eyes of the World”

Failed witnessing: The Drowned and the Saved

The pivotal function of the moral third in relation to collective trauma is constituted by the acknowledgment of violation by the others who serve as witness. At a social level this role is played by the eyes and voice of the world that watches and upholds what is lawful by expressing, at the least, condemnation and indignation over injustice and injury, trauma and agony endured by the victims. The suffering or death of the victims is thus dignified, their lives given value. Their lives are worthy of being mourned, as Butler (2004) termed it, they are grievable lives. In other words, they are not simply objects to be discarded. Given the state of media proliferation, victims the world over know whether their suffering is seen and regarded; they can ask in despair, Why is no one paying attention as we die here? …

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EssaysIn DepthPsyche

The Discarded and the Dignified – Parts 1 and 2

From the Failed Witness to “You are the Eyes of the World”

In this paper I make an effort to blend with my theoretical perspective some of my experience traveling in many parts of the world to places where my colleagues are struggling with the effects of violence and collective trauma either in the present or its aftermath. In addition to psychoanalytic thinking I will bring some of my experience with dialogue in the Middle East to bear on these issues.[1] This represents an effort to show the possibilities for applying psychoanalytically derived concepts to social phenomena, and suggest ways in which recognition theory can be used to grasp deep psychological structures within both collective and individual processes. …

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EssaysLiberal Democracy in QuestionPsyche

Psychologists’ Involvement in Torture

Two recent events have once again raised the distressing issue of psychologists’ involvement in the Bush Administration torture program and the role of the American Psychological Association in it. A New York Times reporter, James Risen, in his new book, Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War, reveals new information on the APA’s conduct in forming its task force on the role of psychologists in detention settings in 2005. The second and far more publicly discussed development is, of course, the recent release of the Executive Summary of the Senate Select Committee Report on Intelligence. Making public the Executive Summary of the report of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is the first public admission by the US government that it has conducted a policy of torture in detention centers around the globe. …

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EssaysPsycheSex & Gender

Human Trafficking

A psychoanalytic and socio-historical view

I am going to think and write about human trafficking through a perspective both psychoanalytic and socio-historical. In fact, part of my quest and my thinking about this matter is to find the right disciplinary mix to speak from and to. This essay is situated in a problem. It may be an intractable problem. At the very least it is a very difficult one. How is it that there is not the social or political will to fight a social problem of great magnitude, great trauma, and great criminality: slavery in the 21st century? There was an abolitionist movement in the 19th century. Why not now? …

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CapitalismEssaysPsyche

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The search for authenticity in consumer culture

Milan Kundera begins his novel Immortality with a description of a gesture made by a woman he is observing at a swimming pool. This woman, who we will come to know as Agnes in the story, smiles and waves at the lifeguard who has just been giving her swimming instructions. There is something charming and elegant for Kundera about this hand wave that reminds him of the gesture of a young woman “playfully tossing a bright colored ball to her lover.” This unique gesture reveals to Kundera the essence of Agnes’ charm, and he is dazzled and strangely moved by it. Later in the novel we discover that this gesture is not as unique as it initially seems. …

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EssaysPsycheTheory & Practice

Alan Baas | Philosophy Talk Series | @NSSR

A reading of On the Cult of Fetish Gods

Since Marx’ and Freud’s influential usage of the term, we became accustomed to talk about fetishism as a topic for psychology and social theory. It is rarely remembered that the topic was originally a topic in theology and ethnology. Why has fetishism assumed such a wide meaning? Why do theorists of fetishism, from Marx to Freud and passing by Comte, always begin with applying it to a specific topic but then ending up generalizing it? These are some of the questions that Alan Bass tackles in his talk delivered as part of the Philosophy Thursday Nights Series. This talk is part of Alan Bass’s ongoing project, which aims at examining the implications of Freud’s generalization of fetishism at the end of his life in relation to the history of discourse on the subject. …

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