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Beyond the “Black Box” of the Therapeutic Community: A Qualitative Psychoanalytic Study

This text is the written version of the public defence of my doctoral thesis which took place on September 22nd, 2014 in “Het Pand” in Ghent. It describes an analysis of the functioning of Therapeutic Communities (TCs) using a variety of qualitative methodologies and a psychoanalytic frame for interpretation. An important finding is that the TC approach succeeds in establishing a fundamental change in the emotional and psychic lives of the residents. A state of general numbness – which is characteristic of those who have been addicted for a long time – evolves in the direction of a re-connection to the Other. I have attributed this transformation (process) to the way in which the TC law is managed, that is, to the way in which both the mother- and the father-function are installed. A further step is that the particularity of each resident is allowed to emerge in the process of transformation. I have concluded that the successful processes of transformation in TCs involve both identification and subjectivization on the basis of which an Other life has become possible.

Lacan’s Conceptualization of Jouissance in Psychosis: A Systematic Study of his Work

In his PhD defence the author discusses the theoretical evolution of the Lacanian concepts jouissance and psychosis. He analyses how nuanced shifts in Lacan’s thinking on psychosis influence his theory on jouissance, and vice versa, and how changes in his conceptualization of jouissance force a reconsideration of his theory of psychosis. This is done based on the cases Lacan presents throughout his writings and seminars.

On the Staging of Fundamental Fantasy, Jouissance and Gaze in Stanley Kubrick’s Cinematography: A Lacanian Perspective

This essay is based on the public defence of a dissertation in which the cinematography of Stanley Kubrick is analysed in light of Lacan’s concepts of fundamental fantasy, jouissance and gaze. Four of Kubrick’s films are discussed and located in the academic literature and the methodological and theoretical frameworks are outlined. In the thesis it is proposed that the narratives of these four films are underpinned by a concrete scenario of a fundamental fantasy: “C observes: A overpowers B”, and that this scenario forms the basis of both the staging of a taxonomy of jouissance and of the evocation of the gaze as instance of the object a. In conclusion, it is outlined how these findings align with the methodological point of departure of the research project.

Viral pandemics, Transhumanism and bio-art gadgets: A Lacanian reading of Dan Brown’s Inferno

This article reads Dan Brown’s best-selling novel Inferno (2013) not as a cinematic techno-thriller, but as a “science novel”: a literary document that allows us to discern some of the tensions, paradoxes and inner dynamics of virology as a contemporary (“hyper-scientific”) biomedical research field. It will be argued that Inferno can help us to “assess the present” by pointing out what we find so intriguing and uncanny about virology and its model organism of choice: the potentially lethal virus. To highlight its cultural relevance, I will approach the novel from a Lacanian perspective. Specifically, I will use Lacan’s “four discourses” to assess the various roles and positions that determine its basic structure. On the one hand, the novel’s key characters function as experts (representing expertise in academic research fields such as molecular life sciences, global health policy and cultural studies), giving voice to what Lacan refers to as “university discourse”. On the other hand, they are tormented individuals, suffering from a range of pathologies and symptoms which allegedly have become endemic in contemporary society (“hysterical discourse”). But the novel also gives the floor to the “Master discourse”: the authoritative voice which apparently knows the truth about the current human condition, articulating a vision of the future, encasing its prophetic messages in intriguing bio-art gadgets. In Inferno, these discourses are challenged/ subverted/altered by “analytical” discourse, putting the key characters on the track of their “object a”, the cause of their desire. Thus, a Lacanian reading allows us to discern how Inferno reflects, in a condensed and emblematic way, the public discontent in contemporary “hyperscience”, under the sway of the potentially lethal virus as its fascinating and commanding “object a”.

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Lacan’s encounter with a Buddhist statue and the gaze as objet

The article examines Lacan’s use of a personal experience recollected from his recent vacation in Japan, recorded in Seminar X (1962-1963) Anxiety. This experience occurred in connection with a Japanese Buddhist statue, and the contemplative relation Lacan observed with respect to it. Lacan utilises his recollection of this experience in his teaching activity, specifically to introduce the question of the objet a in the scopic field. In order to use this experience Lacan was led in the seminar to comment on the relation between psychoanalysis and Buddhism, specifically on the statement that “desire is illusion” and on the central Buddhist teaching of “non-duality” and the article revisits Lacan’s discussion. Lacan also gave the iconographic references which he understood to characterise the statue in question. Some research work reveals the possible identity of this Buddhist statue, both in terms of its actual location and its iconography and identifies it as the “Pensive Prince” or the Bodhisattva Maitreya, situated in Chūgūji monastery at Nara. The article then offers a commentary and analysis of Lacan’s theory of the relation between the eye and the emerging concept of the gaze, in order to illustrate the operation of desire in the field of vision. It shows how Lacan has utilised an example of sublimation in the scopic field in order to communicate to his listeners a development in his theory concerning the gaze as partial object of the scopic drive as well as an historical-cultural sublimation, as exemplified in the Buddhist statue.

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