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Psychoanalysis and Critical Race Theory

ENGL 590.401
crosslisted as: GSWS 589
instructor(s):
Wednesday 4-7:00

Recent years have witnessed the emergence of a growing body of scholarship on psychoanalysis and race in cultural studies as well as in the clinical arena. However, there has been little research considering psychoanalysis specifically in relation to critical race theory, a movement that grew out of the 1980s U.S. legal academy examining the ways in which law and liberalism are productive of racial subjectivity and subordination. This seminar analyzes the psychic and the legal in tandem. We will put classic writings from both fields in conversation by focusing on a number of overlapping areas: subject-object relations in histories of slavery and property law; psychic and legal prohibitions on incest and miscegenation; legalized exclusion and state-sponsored segregation in regard to racial grief and grievance; the politics of colorblindness and mechanisms of splitting, disavowal, and projection; transitional space and its connections to transitional justice; reparations as a key concept in both political theory and object relations. Throughout the semester we will consider how the unconscious provides a critical framework for analyzing the intergenerational transmission of institutional racism and trauma. The seminar does not presume extensive knowledge in either field; it will serve as both an introduction to and a rethinking of psychoanalysis and critical race theory.