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Jouissance and discontent: A meeting of psychoanalysis, race and American slavery

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Abstract

This article reads American slavery as an early manifestation of the instinctive drive toward pleasure and aggression that Freud recognizes in subjects after the First World War. It ties slavery to production of race as an abiding apparatus of jouissance, or a tool for accessing denied psychic pleasure. Where Freud links denial of pleasure to restraints set in place by civilization, the transgressive excesses of slavery not only unveil a Lacanian understanding of the subject’s psyche as rooted fundamentally in lack, but also display the fantasies through which subjects mask this psychic reality. Moving through an analysis of the relation of lack to slave masters and their slaves, the article turns to the anthropological and literary works of Zora Neale Hurston to describe religion and race as mechanisms through which African Americans contend against social unveilings of psychic lack. It demonstrates that, from slavery on through our contemporary times, race maintains itself as an apparatus for mediating the unbearable relation to lack that plagues not just African Americans, but also each Lacanian subject of our post-slavery America.

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Correspondence to Sheldon George.

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George, S. Jouissance and discontent: A meeting of psychoanalysis, race and American slavery. Psychoanal Cult Soc 23, 267–289 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41282-018-0105-0

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