The paper uses historical and socio-psychoanalytically informed perspectives to consider why psychoanalysis has not been more effective in challenging the whiteness of psychoanalytic theory and institutes. Intersecting forces are examined including, in contrast to its radical origins, the particular conservatism of U.S. psychoanalysis from the 1940s through the 1980s. Further, the legacies of slavery which then shaped northern neo-liberal ideologies and effectively precluded discourse concerning race are discussed. Socio-psychoanalytic theories are offered to open discourse and to challenge the whiteness of psychoanalytic theory and its institutions. Specific proposals for systemic institutional change are presented.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Alexander, M. (2010) The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. New York: The New Press.
Aron, L. and Starr, K. (2012) A Psychotherapy for the People: Toward a Progressive Psychoanalysis. New York: Routledge.
Baptist, E.E. (2016) The Half has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism. New York: Basic Books.
Beckert, S. (2015) Empire of Cotton: A Global History. New York: Vintage Books.
Beckert, S. and Rockman, S. (eds.) (2016) Slavery’s Capitalism: A New History of American Economic Development. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Berry, D.R. (2016) “Broad is de road dat leads to death”: Human capital and enslaved mortality. In: S. Beckert and S. Rockman (eds.) Slavery’s Capitalism: A New History of American Economic Development. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, pp. 146–162.
Bhabha, H. (1994) The Location of Culture. London: Routledge.
Boyarin, D. (1998) What does a Jew want?; Or the political meaning of the phallus. In: C. Lane (ed.) The Psychoanalysis of Race. New York: Columbia University Press, pp. 211–240.
Brickman, C. (2018) Race in Psychoanalysis: Aboriginal Populations of the Mind. Oxford, England and New York: Routledge.
Dadlani, M., Bennett, K., et al. (2018) Division 39 Dialogues Across Difference Taskforce: 38th Annual Spring Meeting of the Division of Psychoanalysis (39) of the American Psychological Association, 21 April, New Orleans, LA.
Danto, E. (2007) Freud’s Free Clinics: Psychoanalysis and Social Justice, 1918–1938. New York: Columbia University Press.
Danto, E. (2009) “A new sort of ‘Salvation Army’”: Historical perspectives on the confluence of psychoanalysis and social work. Clinical Social Work Journal 37(1): 67–76.
Davids, M. Fakhry (2011) Internal Racism: A Psychoanalytic Approach to Race and Difference. New York: Palgrave.
Derrida, J. (1998) Geopsychoanalysis: “…and the rest of the world”. Translated by D. Nicholson-Smith. In: C. Lane (ed.) The Psychoanalysis of Race. New York: Columbia University Press, pp. 65–90.
DiAngelo, R. (2011) White fragility. The International Journal of Critical Pedagogy 3(3): 54–70.
Gaztambide, D. (2015) A preferential option of the repressed: Psychoanalysis through the eyes of liberation theology: Discussions by Aron and Jones. Psychoanalytic Dialogues 25(6): 700–713.
Gould, S.J. (1981/1996) The Mismeasure of Man. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.
Guthrie, R. (1998) Even the Rat was White: A Historical View of Psychology. 2nd ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Holmes, D.E. (2017) The fierce urgency of now: An appeal to organized psychoanalysis to take a strong stand on race. The American Psychoanalyst (Special Section: Conversations on Psychoanalysis and Race) 51(1): 8–9.
Hook, D. (2012) A Critical Psychology of the Postcolonial: The Mind of Apartheid. Oxford and New York: Routledge.
Isenberg, N. (2016) White Trash: The 400 Year Untold History of Class in America. New York: Viking.
Jones, A.L. (2015) A psychoanalytic reader’s commentary: On erasure and negation as a barrier to the future. Psychoanalytic Dialogues 25(6): 719–724.
Jones, A.L. and Obourn, M. (2014) Object fear: The national dissociation of race and racism in the era of Obama. Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society 19(4): 392–412.
Kimball, E. (2016) “What have we to do with slavery?” New Englanders and the slave economies of the West Indies. In: S. Beckert and S. Rockman (eds.) Slavery’s Capitalism: A New History of American Economic Development. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, pp.181–194.
Kuriloff, E. (2014) Contemporary Psychoanalysis and the Legacy of the Third Reich: History, Memory, Tradition. New York: Routledge.
Lane, C. (ed.) (1998) The psychoanalysis of race: An introduction. In: The Psychoanalysis of Race. New York: Columbia University Press, pp. 1–37.
Layton, L. (2008) Relational thinking: From culture to couch and couch to culture. In: S. Clarke, H. Hahn and P. Hoggett (eds.) Object Relations and Social Relations: The Implications of the Relational Turn in Psychoanalysis. London and New York: Karnac, pp. 1–24.
Layton, L. (2018) (Trans) generational hauntings: Towards a social psychoanalysis and an ethic of dis-illusionment. Keynote Address presented at the 38th Annual Spring Meeting of the Division of Psychoanalysis (39) of the American Psychological Association, 21 April, New Orleans, LA.
Leary, K. (1997) Race, self-disclosure, and “forbidden talk”: Race and ethnicity in contemporary clinical practice. Psychoanalytic Quarterly 66(2): 163–189.
Merchant, A. (2019) In: M. Suchet and A. Woods “CERCCL presentation: Institutional Racism.” Paper presented at the William Alanson White Institute Conference: Changing the conversation: political and clinical issues of race and ethnicity in psychoanalytic institutes, 23 March, New York, NY.
Morrison, T. (1992) Playing in the Dark; Whiteness and the Literary Imagination. New York: Vintage.
New York Times (2019) The 1619 project. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/08/14/magazine/1619-america-slavery.html, accessed 1 January 2020.
Painter, N. (2010) The History of White People. New York: W.W. Norton and Co.
Purnell, B. and Theoharis, J. (eds.) (2019) The Strange Careers of the Jim Crow North: Segregation and Struggle outside of the South. New York: New York University Press.
Rosenthal, C. (2016) Slavery’s scientific management: Masters and managers. In: S. Beckert and S. Rockman (eds.) Slavery’s Capitalism: A New History of American Economic Development. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, pp. 62–86.
Ruglass, L.M. and Sankoh, V. (2012) Understanding and reducing barriers to graduate education in psychology among racial/ethnic minority students at an urban college in NYC. Poster presented at the 120th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, Orlando, Florida, August.
Sheshadri-Crooks, K. (1998) The comedy of domination: Psychoanalysis and the conceit of whiteness. In: C. Lane (ed.) The Psychoanalysis of Race. New York: Columbia University Press, pp. 353–379.
Smith College Libraries. Bertha Capen Reynolds urges Kimball to admit black students, early 1930s. https://sophia.smith.edu/ssw100-history/bcr-urges-kimball-to-admit-black-students/, accessed 15 December 2019.
Smith College School of Social Work Anti-Racism Portal. https://ssw.smith.edu/anti-racism-resources, accessed 15 December 2019.
Stevenson, B. (2015) Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption. New York: Random House.
Swartz, S. (2019) Ruthless Winnicott; The Role of Ruthlessness in Psychoanalysis and Political Protest. Oxford, England and New York: Routledge.
Travers, M. (2019) Five charts that will change the way you think about racial inequality. Forbes Magazine, 1 October. https://www.forbes.com/sites/traversmark/2019/10/01/five-charts-that-will-change-theway-you-think-about-racial-inequality/#fec24545fb2f, accessed 15 December 2019.
Trouillot, M.R. (1995) The Silencing of History: Power and the Production of History. New York: Beacon Press.
Vaughans, K. (2018) Black children in the eye of the storm. Keynote Address presented at the 38th Annual Spring Meeting of the Division of Psychoanalysis (39) of the American Psychological Association, 20 April, New Orleans, LA.
White, K. (2002) Surviving hating and being hated: some personal thoughts about racism from a psychoanalytic perspective. Contemporary Psychoanalysis 38(3): 401–422.
Wilder, C. (2014) Ebony and Ivy: Race, Slavery and the Troubled History of America’s Universities. New York: Bloomsbury Press.
Winograd, B. (dir.) (2014) Black Psychoanalysts Speak. USA: PEP Video Grants 1(1): 1.
Woods, A. (2020) White privilege and its fissures: A personal perspective. In: B.J. Stoute and M. Slevin (eds.) The Trauma of Racism: Lessons from the Therapeutic Encounter. London: Routledge.
Yang, S. (1998) A question of accent: Ethnicity and transference. In: C. Lane (ed.) The Psychoanalysis of Race. New York: Columbia University Press, pp. 139–153.
Žižek, S. (1998) Love thy neighbor? No, thanks! In: C. Lane (ed.) The Psychoanalysis of Race. New York: Columbia University Press, pp. 154–175.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Woods, A. The work before us: Whiteness and the psychoanalytic institute. Psychoanal Cult Soc 25, 230–249 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41282-019-00155-3
- systemic whiteness
- U.S. history
- post-colonial perspectives