Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Psychoanalysis and Critical Race Theory

ENGL 790.401
crosslisted as: COML 790, GSWS 790
instructor(s):
Wednesday 10:15-1:15pm

Recent years have witnessed the emergence of a growing body of scholarship on psychoanalysis and race in cultural studies and the clinical arena. However, there has been little research considering psychoanalysis 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 produce racial subjectivity and subordination. This seminar analyzes the psychic and the legal in tandem. We will put classic writings from these two fields in conversation with one another by focusing on some overlapping themes: 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 repression and dissociation; transitional space and its connections to transitional justice and transitional democracy; 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 both trauma and structural racism.