The work before us: Whiteness and the psychoanalytic institute

Abstract

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.

References

  1. Alexander, M. (2010) The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. New York: The New Press.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Aron, L. and Starr, K. (2012) A Psychotherapy for the People: Toward a Progressive Psychoanalysis. New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Baptist, E.E. (2016) The Half has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism. New York: Basic Books.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Beckert, S. (2015) Empire of Cotton: A Global History. New York: Vintage Books.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Beckert, S. and Rockman, S. (eds.) (2016) Slavery’s Capitalism: A New History of American Economic Development. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

    Google Scholar 

  6. 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.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Bhabha, H. (1994) The Location of Culture. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  8. 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.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Brickman, C. (2018) Race in Psychoanalysis: Aboriginal Populations of the Mind. Oxford, England and New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  10. 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.

  11. Danto, E. (2007) Freud’s Free Clinics: Psychoanalysis and Social Justice, 19181938. New York: Columbia University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  12. 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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Davids, M. Fakhry (2011) Internal Racism: A Psychoanalytic Approach to Race and Difference. New York: Palgrave.

    Google Scholar 

  14. 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.

  15. DiAngelo, R. (2011) White fragility. The International Journal of Critical Pedagogy 3(3): 54–70.

    Google Scholar 

  16. 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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Gould, S.J. (1981/1996) The Mismeasure of Man. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.

  18. Guthrie, R. (1998) Even the Rat was White: A Historical View of Psychology. 2nd ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

    Google Scholar 

  19. 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.

  20. Hook, D. (2012) A Critical Psychology of the Postcolonial: The Mind of Apartheid. Oxford and New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Isenberg, N. (2016) White Trash: The 400 Year Untold History of Class in America. New York: Viking.

    Google Scholar 

  22. 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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. 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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. 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.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Kuriloff, E. (2014) Contemporary Psychoanalysis and the Legacy of the Third Reich: History, Memory, Tradition. New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Lane, C. (ed.) (1998) The psychoanalysis of race: An introduction. In: The Psychoanalysis of Race. New York: Columbia University Press, pp. 1–37.

  27. 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.

    Google Scholar 

  28. 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.

  29. Leary, K. (1997) Race, self-disclosure, and “forbidden talk”: Race and ethnicity in contemporary clinical practice. Psychoanalytic Quarterly 66(2): 163–189.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  30. 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.

  31. Morrison, T. (1992) Playing in the Dark; Whiteness and the Literary Imagination. New York: Vintage.

    Google Scholar 

  32. New York Times (2019) The 1619 project. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/08/14/magazine/1619-america-slavery.html, accessed 1 January 2020.

  33. Painter, N. (2010) The History of White People. New York: W.W. Norton and Co.

    Google Scholar 

  34. 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.

    Google Scholar 

  35. 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.

    Google Scholar 

  36. 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.

  37. 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.

    Google Scholar 

  38. 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.

  39. Smith College School of Social Work Anti-Racism Portal. https://ssw.smith.edu/anti-racism-resources, accessed 15 December 2019.

  40. Stevenson, B. (2015) Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption. New York: Random House.

    Google Scholar 

  41. Swartz, S. (2019) Ruthless Winnicott; The Role of Ruthlessness in Psychoanalysis and Political Protest. Oxford, England and New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  42. 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.

  43. Trouillot, M.R. (1995) The Silencing of History: Power and the Production of History. New York: Beacon Press.

    Google Scholar 

  44. 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.

  45. White, K. (2002) Surviving hating and being hated: some personal thoughts about racism from a psychoanalytic perspective. Contemporary Psychoanalysis 38(3): 401–422.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Wilder, C. (2014) Ebony and Ivy: Race, Slavery and the Troubled History of America’s Universities. New York: Bloomsbury Press.

    Google Scholar 

  47. Winograd, B. (dir.) (2014) Black Psychoanalysts Speak. USA: PEP Video Grants 1(1): 1.

  48. 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.

    Google Scholar 

  49. 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.

    Google Scholar 

  50. Žižek, S. (1998) Love thy neighbor? No, thanks! In: C. Lane (ed.) The Psychoanalysis of Race. New York: Columbia University Press, pp. 154–175.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Alexandra Woods.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

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

Download citation

Keywords

  • psychoanalysis
  • systemic whiteness
  • race
  • U.S. history
  • post-colonial perspectives