The torso is missing: Coming of age in 21st century Ireland


The social and cultural landscape of Ireland today is without any doubt quite different from its pre-Tiger days. On the one hand, constitutional amendments permitting divorce (1996), same-sex marriage (2015), and abortion (2018) have created grounds for the perception that Ireland is progressive (Cashin, 2017), liberal (Bielenberg, 2018), or at least catching up with the rest of advanced Western societal models. On the other hand, the lingering effects of post-Tiger austerity, an unprecedented housing crisis, the rise of violent drug and gang crimes, new family structures, and inadequate provisions for young people suffering with poor mental health, together and interdependently, mobilise an array of new social, cultural, and psychical symptoms. Drawing on Jacques Lacan’s theorising in his early teachings of the family complexes and their effects upon the formation of subjectivity, social bond, and symptom, I venture an interpretation of the psychical, social, and cultural effects with which Irish young people are living. Via the speaking bodies of Ireland’s Generation Z, I make a bridge from Lacan’s early works to his later conceptual and clinical insights about the child’s symptom as a response to what does not work at the level of the parental couple relationship, and to considerations of the child’s symptom as a special effect of the mother’s fantasy, itself contoured by the new Irish symbolic order.

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Owens, C. The torso is missing: Coming of age in 21st century Ireland. Psychoanal Cult Soc (2020).

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  • Lacan
  • family complexes
  • Generation Z
  • Ireland
  • social change
  • ‘Name-of-the-Father’
  • maternal jouissance