On Racism from a Psychoanalytic Point of View

This paper focuses on Freud’s interpretation of racism and xenophobia as described in his essay “A Comment on Anti-Semitism” and in his “Letter to the Editor of Time and Tide“. The psychobiographical method Jean-Louis Maisonneuve uses in his work L’extrême droite sur le divan is also critiqued. An alternative starting point for a psychoanalytic interpretation of racism and xenophobia is found in the works of Tahar Ben Jelloun and Gerard Miller, in which racist language and sexual fantasies projected onto immigrants are analysed.

Identity on the Run: Psychoanalysis as “a possible Profession” in an unbearable Situation

To speak of fleeing presupposes an active choice: the subject driven by a survival instinct to make strategic use of its defence mechanisms. But what of the case where flight is une carte forcée driven by real danger forcing the subject faced with death to choose life? An already fragile refugee, the author argues, then faces a poor reception by Western society upon arrival. The pressure uncertain legal status can shatter the identity of a refugee waiting to receive permanent recognition. The external threat which forced the subject to flee his/her own country can be magnified by the threats to which he is exposed on arrival. On a phenomenological level, the effect of the fragmentation of the immigrant’s identity is similar clinically in symptoms to a trauma patient. A clinical illustration of a psychotherapy with a Chechen patient supports this hypothesis. In this context psychotherapy concerns making connections between inside and outside, between the inner and outer world, between one’s own country and Western society. The objective is to safeguard the existence of the subject: in reality as well as in a fantasmatic construction.

The Immigrant and Singularity: An “odd” Couple?

Migration is currently under investigation. On the one hand questions are raised as to whether immigrants are assimilating the norms and values of their new country quickly enough. On the other hand, in a clinical context, it is observed that mental illness when encountered in immigrants is culture-specific. However, these observations cannot be interpreted without taking account of the double context in which the immigrant is embedded: that of their native country and now the host nation. The issue of “identity” and the social context in which it derives plays a crucial role in discourse about immigrants. The objectifying public debate about migration has clear clinical repercussions at an individual level and there is a need to reframe these cultural representations from a psychoanalytic perspective. This means that the function of religious speech also deserves our attention during a cure with an immigrant. A clinical illustration of a Muslim in psychotherapy clarifies how the coordinates of a Lacanian thinking can function as a universal language to understand the singular logic of the subject.

A Foreign Land to come Home to: On Migration and Psychoanalysis

This paper examines what psychoanalysis can say about migration, and what it means for psychotherapeutic work with migrants and refugees. Topics addressed include trauma, mourning, depression, melancholia and identity formation. The refugee or migrant faces not only traumatic events and loss experiences from their home country and during flight, but also unexpected phenomena in the country of arrival. Desubjectivization, the decoupling of a language and its effect, given the fact that the unconscious is structured like language, mourning work and the risk of melancholy, the interruption of the Name-of-the-Father, being mirrored and the effect on one’s identity. The migrant is challenged to process trauma and to incorporate it into the framework of life. He must perform mourning work, build a new (shared) Symbolic, and achieve social and psychological integrity. In an analysis, there is the opportunity to be heard, to hear yourself speak, instead of being under scrutiny, to face things, convey movement, to break, and to regain one’s own subjectivity.