Unconscious Dominions

Psychoanalysis, Colonial Trauma, and Global Sovereignties

Unconscious Dominions

Book Pages: 328 Illustrations: Published: October 2011

Theory and Philosophy > Postcolonial Theory, Psychoanalytic Theory

By the 1920s, psychoanalysis was a technology of both the late-colonial state and anti-imperialism. Insights from psychoanalysis shaped European and North American ideas about the colonial world and the character and potential of native cultures. Psychoanalytic discourse, from Freud’s description of female sexuality as a “dark continent” to his conceptualization of primitive societies and the origins of civilization, became inextricable from the ideologies underlying European expansionism. But as it was adapted in the colonies and then the postcolonies, psychoanalysis proved surprisingly useful for theorizing anticolonialism and postcolonial trauma.

Our understandings of culture, citizenship, and self have a history that is colonial and psychoanalytic, but, until now, this intersection has scarcely been explored, much less examined in comparative perspective. Taking on that project, Unconscious Dominions assembles essays based on research in Australia, Brazil, France, Haiti, and Indonesia, as well as India, North Africa, and West Africa. Even as they reveal the modern psychoanalytic subject as constitutively colonial, they shed new light on how that subject went global: how people around the world came to recognize the hybrid configuration of unconscious, ego, and superego in themselves and others.

Warwick Anderson
Alice Bullard
John Cash
Joy Damousi
Didier Fassin
Christiane Hartnack
Deborah Jenson
Richard C. Keller
Ranjana Khanna
Mariano Plotkin
Hans Pols


“This collection can be useful for historians who study international relations, immigration, and colonial history, with a focus on the complex relationships between nations, citizens, and the ‘other.’ It also offers health and history scholars fascinating new perspectives on the history of psychoanalysis.” — Geertje Boschma, Nursing History Review

“A truly remarkable achievement, this book moves humanistic interpretation of psychoanalysis away from the polarities of unquestioned universality and postcolonial deconstructionism that has dominated the literature and toward an engagement with the tense, conflicted, frequently paradoxical spaces between these absolutes: the place where all sovereignties and subjectivities ultimately reside.”
— Matthew M. Heaton, Bulletin of the History of Medicine

Unconscious Dominions is a unique, groundbreaking conversation on globalization and psychoanalysis. Internationally respected scholars take on terrific historical questions, vital conceptual puzzles, and pressing social relations in the process of revealing the psychoanalytic unconscious to be both a mobile mechanism of empire and an opportunity for the liberation from empire.” — Elizabeth A. Povinelli, author of Economies of Abandonment: Social Belonging and Endurance in Late Liberalism

“This marvelous collection maps human subjectivities as they have been reshaped by colonialism to ensure the emergence of a cosmopolitan, psychoanalytic subject and the globalization of the unconscious. Indeed, the editors and the authors propose that the myriad forms of globalization we see around us assume this new cosmopolitan self and so do the new ideas of living with cultural diversities and perhaps even dissent. Both the psychoanalytic subject and the globalized unconscious have their origins in colonial psychiatry and psychoanalysis and both now have to negotiate the diffusion and fragmentation of sovereignties in our times. Unconscious Dominions is fresh, lively and provocative and can be read as a travelogue on our incomplete journeys into our disowned selves.” — Ashis Nandy, author of The Intimate Enemy: Loss and Recovery of Self under Colonialism


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Warwick Anderson is a research professor in the Department of History and the Centre for Values, Ethics and the Law in Medicine at the University of Sydney, and a professorial fellow in the Centre for Health and Society at the University of Melbourne. He is the author of Colonial Pathologies: American Tropical Medicine, Race, and Hygiene in the Philippines and The Cultivation of Whiteness: Science, Health, and Racial Destiny in Australia, both also published by Duke University Press.

Deborah Jenson is Professor of Romance Studies at Duke University. She is the author of Beyond the Slave Narrative: Politics, Sex, and Manuscripts in the Haitian Revolution and Trauma and Its Representations.

Richard C. Keller is Associate Professor of Medical History and the History of Science at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He is the author of Colonial Madness: Psychiatry in French North Africa.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments vii

Introduction: Globalizing the Unconscious / Warwick Anderson, Deborah Jenson, and Richard C. Keller 1

Part I. Ethnohistory, Colonialism, and the Cosmopolitan Psychoanalytic Subject

1. Sovereignty in Crisis / John D. Cash 21

2. Denial, La Crypte, and Magic: Contributions to the Global Unconscious from Late Colonial French West African Psychiatry / Alice Bullard 43

3. Géza Róhein and the Australian Aborigine: Psychoanalytic Anthropology during the Interwar Years / Joy Damousi 75

4. Colonial Dominions with the Psychoanalytic Couch: Synergies of Freudian Theory with Bengali Hindu Thought and Practices in British India / Christiane Hartnack 97

5. Psychoanalysis, Race Relations, and National Identity: The Reception of Psychoanalysis in Brazil, 1910 to 1940 / Mariano Ben Plotkin 113

Part II. Trauma, Subjectivity, Sovereignty: Psychoanalysis and Postcolonial Critique

6. The Totem Vanishes, the Hordes Revolt: A Psychoanalytic Interpretation of the Indonesian Struggle for Independence / Hans Pols 141

7. Placing Haiti in Geopsychoanalysis Space: Toward a Postcolonial Concept of Traumatic Mimesis / Deborah Jensen 167

8. Colonial Madness and the Poetics of Suffering: Structural Violence and Kateb Yacine / Richard C. Keller 199

9. Ethnopsychiatry and the Postcolonial Encounter: A French Psychopolitics of Otherness / Didier Fassin 223

Concluding Remarks: Hope, Demand, and the Perpetual / Ranjana Khanna 247

Bibliography 265

Contributors 295

Index 299
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4979-2 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4964-8
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