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Summary: This essay aims to revisit and reframe the question that Freud saw as the starting point of Moses and Monotheism, a question posed to Arnold Zweig in 1934: “how [have] the Jews … come to be what they are[?]” While diverging from Freud in many ways, the essay ventures a new answer in the context in which he sought his own: not just the enduring mystery of “the origin of monotheism among the Jews” (the ostensible subject of Freud’s study) but more particularly how that origin and the historical path emanating from it can only be grasped through the lens provided by psychoanalytically- informed inquiry. That said, even as the essay’s central argument is premised on reaffirming the notion that a cultural trauma stands at the origin of Jewish monotheism, it rejects Freud’s specific claim that the traumatic event was the murder of Moses. Thus, although it retains Freud’s foundational position that Judaic-monotheistic faith must be understood not simply in terms of a body of doctrines and practices but more fundamentally in terms of powerful unconscious elements, it explicitly shifts away from the idea that made it conceptually possible for Freud to complete and publish Moses and Monotheism – Ernst Sellin’s reconstruction of a biblical tradition that Moses had been murdered sometime during the period of the people’s wandering in the desert after their exodus from Egypt. In so challenging the very premise of Freud’s psychoanalytically- grounded argument about the origins of Jewish monotheism, the essay also attempts to realign his concept of an originary cultural trauma with something other than his historically unsubstantiated reconstructions of the Mosaic-Exodus period. In short, the essay aims to show that the originary trauma has a verifiable time and place in documented Jewish history: the Babylonian Exile. Just as important, this time and place (and their aftermath) are directly related to how monotheism has come to be understood in Judaism and beyond, a tradition that is inextricably linked to the final emergence of Torah sometime in the mid- to late-fifth century BCE.

The mythification of memory: Freud, Lacan and Sebald’s Austerlitz

This paper explores the theme of memory and the process of remembering, linked to the inception of psychoanalysis and Freud’s work with his first hysterical patients which taught him that remembering, or rather, reminiscing, forms a crucial part of every analysis. Remembering is imprecise and is therefore of immense significance. What doesn’t fit into the narrative of life is “trauma.” It is what could not be assimilated by the subject and thus it is separated from “memory” (Braunstein, 2010, p. 6). In developing this, I will assess Freud’s early work with female hysterics and his work on technique, as well as Lacan’s elaborations of Freud’s technique in his work in the fifties which instrumentalise the importance of “dialectic” in supporting the analysand’s speech and remembering. What is essential is the “reconstruction” of the past and not simply reproducing it. W.G. Sebald’s compelling novel Austerlitz (2001) serves as a complimentary text in assessing the subjective significance of memory and remembering.

Talking about trauma: could I, would I, should I?

In this article, we discuss the current clinical guideline in trauma treatment which proscribes putting traumatic events into words. Via Lacan’s registers of the Real, the Imaginary and the Symbolic, we consider an alternative understanding of trauma in which subjective processes and the relationship between subject and Other are crucial in understanding the inability to process traumatic events. When, in that relationship, a dissatisfactory representational framework has been installed, therapy should focus on finding stabilization in a safe and supportive environment. In a case illustration, we elaborate on the situation in which the existing representational framework fails and how therapy encompasses a search towards another position in relation to the Other. We conclude that speech functions as an instrument, rather than as the finality of the cure.

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.

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.