Prof. Stefania Pandolfo Anthro 149: Psychological Anthropology

Psychological Anthropology Midterm Paper
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Prof. Stefania Pandolfo Anthro 149: Psychological Anthropology Spring 2015 Midterm paper topics. Directions: The papers should be 10-12 pages double space and should address one of the suggested topics. You can also make up your own topic by changing a topic slightly, addressing more than one theme, or interpreting it in a different way. In general, and in my experience, following a suggested topic is helpful, and enhances the quality of the paper. If you want to write on a completely different topic (but which must be based to the readings we discussed so far and listed here below), please consult with your GSI or with me for approval. Anchor your discussion in concrete examples from the readings trying to draw connections and parallels. Use footnotes or parentheses to indicate the source of your citations, and re-read/proofread the paper before handling it to us. It will flow much better. My criteria: A paper that I consider a good paper is solidly rooted in the readings, discussing a problem in the form of both exposition and argument. I appreciate original papers, but I don’t want originality that is not rooted in a careful reading. Readings: F. Fanon, Black Skin, White Mask M. Foucault, Madness and Civilization (or History of Madness) S. Freud and J. Breuer, Studies on Hysteria (Anna O plus introduction) S. Freud, “The Forgetting of Proper Names” S. Freud, Interpretation of Dreams (sections in the syllabus) S. Freud, “Considerations on War and Death” B. Bettelheim, Freud and Man’s Soul (excerpts) H. Ellenberger, The Discovery of the Unconscious (Excerpts) Gananath Obeyesekere, The Work of Culture (Ch. 1) 1. Freud and Fanon on dreams Discuss Fanon’s position on trauma, culture, and dreams in the colony, in relation to Freud’s “dream-work” in Interpretation of dreams: In Ch. 4 of Black Skin White Mask Fanon takes issue with psychological anthropologists that sought to explain what he calls “the dependency complex of the colonized” in cultural terms. Speaking of Madagascar, the island in the Indian Ocean at the Southern tip of Africa that became a French colony in 1894, Fanon says: “Since Galieni [the French general who arrived with the French army] the Malgasi ceased to exist” (p. 74), and goes on to describe the impact of colonialism as an “absolute wound” (p. 77, 2 your translation says “unmistakable wound”), a societal trauma that changes all relations, a shattering of the self and culture. In this light Fanon reads the Malgasi dreams–as a form of torture and a violent invasion: the irruption in sleep of a “gun label 1916” (p. 86), or of a black bull that is not a symbol, but the insistent return of the memory of torture in the basements of the police station (footnote 30, p. 84, the footnote we discussed in class). For Fanon there is no culture left that may provide the basis for a “work” of symbolic elaboration (the “dreamwork” or “the work of culture”), and the colonized self is left without protection, exposed to a violence that is literal, and is reiterated in his or her own dreams. Compare the dreams on p. 79-88 of Black Skin, White Mask, with what Freud says of dreams in Ch. II of Interpretation of Dreams (the dream of Irma’s injection), or another dream from Ch. 6. First discuss the Freudian dream-work basing your discussion on the example of the dream of Irma and on the sections in Ch. 6 (“The dream-work”): in what sense the dream-work is a “work” (labor, elaboration?) In what sense it is a language (of images)? What are its rules? What are the symbolic operations of “condensation” and “displacement”? In what way the dream-work translates an unconscious motivation? What does the dream do for Freud? How does it think? Fanon argues that the Freudian analysis of dreams fails in the colony: discuss. 2. Freud and Obeyesekere, the dreamwork and the work of culture: In his ethnographic analysis of the case of Abdin the Sri Lankan anthropologist Gananath Obeyesekere shows how the Freudian dream-work is encountered at the level of ritual, and that it makes possible a mediation between the personal meanings of symptoms in Abdin’s history of trauma, and the shared meaning of culture. Discuss Obeyesekere’s “work of culture” in conversation with Freud’s “dream-work”, and his understanding of the unconscious and the formation of symptoms/symbols. First discuss the Freudian dream-work basing your discussion on the example of the dream of Irma or another dream in the sections we read, and on the sections on the dreamwork in Ch. 6 (“The dreamwork”). In what sense the dreamwork is a “work” (labor, elaboration?) In what sense it is a language (of images)? What are its rules? What are the symbolic operations of “condensation” and “displacement”? In what way the dream-work translates, elaborates and expresses an unconscious motivation? What does the dream do for Freud? How does it think? Then discuss the “work of culture” according to Obeyesekere, and in the specific context of his South Asian example. What is the “work of culture”? What its relation to public symbols, ritual and religion? In what way is Obeyesekere both inspired by Freud and taking his insight in a different direction? How do you think Freud’s ideas may be relevant (or irrelevant) today, in, and outside of the West? 3. Freud and Foucault (Bettelheim and Ellenberger)3 Basing your paper on the chapters we read in Foucault’s Madness of Civilization and/or on the excerpts from Bettelheim on Freud and Man’s Soul, and/or and the sections in Ellenberger’s Discovery of the Unconscious on the ancestors of psychoanalysis, elaborate on the relationship between the prior lives of madness (vis-a-vis religious healing, and/or humoral medicine), the rise of modern psychiatry and psychology, and the place of psychoanalysis, poised between. 4. Fanon and Freud 1 To the best of your knowledge, and based on your choice from the readings we did (including Freud’s Studies on Hysteria, Interpretation of Dreams, and Considerations on War and Death) attempt to trace the Freudian themes in Fanon’s Black Skin White Mask. Give first a careful reading of Fanon’s argument on “alienation” and what might be called the “colonization of the imaginary”, and discuss the question of aggressivity and destruction in Fanon and Freud. How do Freud and Fanon open (or not) the possibility of thinking violence, subjectivity, and ethics in a way that might still be helpful today? How could you relate Freud’s insights in Considerations of War and Death to Fanon’s discussion of domination, violence, and terror? 5. Fanon and Freud 2 Discuss side by side Fanon’s Black Skin White Mask and Freud’s Considerations on War and Death. How could you relate Freud’s insights in Considerations of War and Death to Fanon’s discussion of domination, violence, and terror in the colony? 6. Foucault’s madness, Fanon’s race Read through all the questions above on Fanon, Foucault, and Freud, and compose your own paper topic as an analytic comparison of the way in which in each account the machinery of exclusion is associated with the production of otherness. You may further your argument by discussing how the production and exclusion of otherness is related to what Foucault describes as the silencing of a dialogue between reason and madness: a dialogue which, as we read and discussed in class, is at the center of the Freudian theory of subjectivity, of the unconscious, and desire, and more specifically is found in the Freudian concept of the “symptom”. 7. Freud Through a close reading of two chapters of your choice from Freud’s texts we read for our class, discuss Freud’s understanding of the self, the psyche, desire (the wish), pain, repression, and unconscious elaboration. Don’t try to do this in general terms (and don’t seek the help of accounts of Freudian psychoanalysis other than what we read for our class). Remain as close as possible to Freud’s language and concepts, to the examples he uses
in the chapters we read, and the way I discussed those in my lectures. Take the story of Anna O., the forgetting of the name of the painter Signorelli [Ch. 1, Psychopathology of Everyday Life] and the dream of Irma’s injection [Ch 2, Interpretation of Dreams]. Trace in each case how Freud describes and analyzes the play of memory and 4 forgetting in the “two localities”. What is the force of desire? What is the operation of repression/suppression? How can we, in each case, map the work of feelings, and the “repressed thoughts” in the “Other Locality”, through connections and symbolic transformation (what Freud calls “displacement” and “condensation”)? 8. Freud and Obeyesekere “I wanted , therefore, to forget something; I had repressed something. What I wanted to forget was not, it is true, the name of the artist at Orvieto, but something else–something, however, which contrived to place itself in associative connection with its name, so that my act of will missed its target and I forgot the one thing against my will, while I wanted to forget the other thing intentionally”. (S. Freud, The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, p. 13). Taking the lead from this passage, discuss the theory of subjectivity and the unconscious developed by Freud, through some of the chapters you have read. What does the “disturbance” and the “compromise of the symptom” reveal or express? What does this tell us about the relationship of conscious and unconscious agencies? And in general about Freud’s approach to subjectivity? What could be the use, applicability, or insight, of this Freudian view from an anthropological perspective? Relate this question to G. Obeyesekere’s discussion of the case of Abdin (in The Work of Culture). How do culture and religion mediate the expression and articulation of Abdin’s unconscious life, trauma and desire? How does Obeyesekere understand the movement of “regression” and “progression” between cultural and religious “symbols” and personal and psychopathological “symptom”? Discuss this point through a close reading of the case. Do you find Obeyesekere’s account and his approach interesting, useful, and why? 9. Anna O. and Abdin. In light of the elaboration I suggest in topics 4 and 5, discuss Freud and Breuer’s case of Anna O., and Obeyesekere’s case of Abdin closely and in relation to each other. Consider Anna’s vocabulary, in particular the concept of her “private theatre” (p. 23), and compare them to Obeyesekere’s analysis of Abdin’s ritual scenes.


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