Venue: House of the Estates (Säatytalo) Snellmansgatan 9-11, 00170

Recent eruptions of conflict, revolt and discontent have been radical and unexpected. The Arab Spring, the UK Riots or the Occupy movement are some examples of these. Furthermore, the recent violent right-wing attacks in Europe exemplify underlying conflict in the contemporary political climate. This symposium raises the questions of how to evaluate and to think about these phenomena. A further question is that of to what extent these events challenge the limits of psychoanalytic conceptualisation.

 Individual and social eruptions and disruptions may have creative dimensions reflected in social and individual change. They can also be read as traumatic repetitions or as the surfacing of repressed affects, drives and representations. The Arab Spring uprisings sparked joy and hope for sudden and unexpected democratisations, while also, from the point of view of Europe, it stirred up anxiety, perhaps linked to Orientalist fantasies about the revolt of the ‘others’. The world-wide “Occupy Movement” seems to be a reaction to a feeling of displacement of the subject from the economical, cultural and social; hence its call to occupy a space. Nevertheless, it can be argued that there is no object to which this call is directed and, therefore, it seems to begin to disappear from the space it attempted to occupy. The UK riots appeared as a revolt of private consumerism rather than a political one. Blamed by the justice secretary on the nature of the “feral underclass”, other commentators saw them as an ironic confirmation of Thatcher’s famous slogan “There is no such thing as society”. In a different vein, Breivik’s propagandistic “recycling” of old and familiar Anti-Semitic, racist and misogynistic fantasies in the context of islamophobic ideology evokes the thought of the ‘return of the repressed’. The return of the repressed occurs when the compromise formation fails, when the symptom does not suffice to keep psychic equilibrium. A possible question, then, is whether social movements can be understood as disruptions that occur when social compromise formations or symptoms break down.

The terms revolt and resistance have a polyphonic character. Revolt can be thought of as means for revolutionary change or, on the other hand, as the very rejection produced by the uprising. These terms may be understood in the sense of political and social resistance movements, as well as the forces of resistance that oppose the emergence of the repressed. “It is hard”, wrote Freud (1926d [1925]), “for the ego to direct its attention to perceptions and ideas which it has up till now made a rule of avoiding, or to acknowledge as belonging to itself impulses that are the complete opposite of those which it knows as its own. Our fight against resistance in analysis is based upon this view of the facts.” With reference to the resistance of the superego, Rose (2007) asserts that “there is a pleasure in subjugation; there is a pleasure – hence the last resistance – in pain. Idealisation of self and nation is a way of submitting to a voice that will never be satisfied”. Whole individual destinies, as she rightly claims, are contained in the different meanings of these words. “To be sure,” wrote Arendt (1963) in relation to the testimonies in Eichmann in Jerusalem, “those who resisted were a minority, a tiny minority, but under the circumstances “the miracle was,” as one of them pointed out, “that this minority existed”.” Fackenheim (1989) posits everyday resistance as an ontological ethical imperative: how can we not resist the logic of destruction ontologically, here and now, when they resisted it ontically, there and then. Thus, we may interrogate resistance as a defense as well as an authentic category of being.

By understanding the social analogously to the psychic, it is possible to identify social forces of repression, aggression, identification, projection and resistance. However, Freud (1930) asks “what would be the use of the most correct analysis of social neuroses, since no one possesses authority to impose such a therapy upon the group?” One way of posing such a question would be to ask about the practical employment of psychoanalytic insight in social settings; another would be to ask about its legitimacy and the possible limits of its scope. Thus, the question of the relevance, scope and place of psychoanalytic knowledge in relation to social uprisings, movements and revolutions is posed as a leading thread in the present investigation. The Breivik trial revitalized questions of mental health as an individual or a social issue and the links between these perspectives. “If he is left to himself,” Freud wrote in Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, (1921) “a neurotic is obliged to replace by his own symptom formations the great group formations from which he is excluded. He creates his own world of imagination for himself, his own religion, his own system of delusions, and thus recapitulates the institutions of humanity in a distorted way”. Given the view that processes that would be regarded as pathological when encountered on an individual level commonly occur on a collective level without being thought of as abnormal, can we speak of the social as being more or less sane or insane, and if so, based on what criteria? The answer that all social units are ‘neurotic’ or ‘psychotic’ begs the question of whether they can be conceived under a more positive light.

Acting out, to Freud, takes place when the subject, in the grip of unconscious wishes and phantasies, relives these in the present while refusing to recognise their source and their repetitive character. Action, thus conceived, stands in opposition to thought and to memory – but is there scope for a more positive conceptualisation of action within psychoanalytic thinking?

A related issue is that of how representatives of the extreme right have adopted a discourse of victimhood in relation to a feeling of not being heard by the majority. At the same time, a large share of Norwegians not directly affected by the terrorist attacks tended to construe themselves as their victims. This raises interesting questions about identification with the state and the nation in relation to fantasies about these and the politizised role of the martyr as a predisposition for acting or reacting.

This is an interdisciplinary conference – we invite theoretical contributions and historical, literary or clinical case studies on these and related themes from philosophers, sociologists, psychoanalysts, psychotherapists, group analysts, literary theorists, historians and others. Perspectives from different psychoanalytic schools will be most welcome. We emphasise room for discussion among the presenters and participants, thus the symposium series creates a space where representatives of different perspectives come together and engage with one another’s contributions, participating in a community of thought. Therefore, we would like you to attend for the whole symposium, and we will give priority to those who plan to do so. Due to the nature of the forum audio recording is not permitted.

Presentations are expected to take half an hour; another 20 minutes is set aside for discussion. Please send an abstract of 200 to 300 words to moc.liamgnull@scitilop.sisylanaohcysp by December 1st 2012.

We will respond by, and present a preliminary programme on, December 15th 2012. If you would like to sign up to participate without presenting a paper, please contact us after this date.

This is a relatively small symposium where active participation is encouraged. Researchers, clinicians, students and others who are interested are invited to attend and present their work in a friendly and enjoyable social atmosphere. A participation fee, which includes two shared dinners, of € 155 – 1155 NOK – 1338 SEK – 1156 DKK – £ 125 – $ 201 – 108 LVL – 535 LTL,  is to be paid before the symposium. Fees must be covered by a bank transfer/international bank transfer. Your place is only confirmed once we have received your completed registration form as well as your payment. Additional information will be given after your abstract has been accepted or after the conference programme has been finalized.

The organizers would like to thank the Finnish Psychoanalytical Society for their support.



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