Which Identity? Tribalism and Humanism

Which Identity? Tribalism and Humanism

Call for papers

Spring symposium in the rooms of the Institute of Group Analysis,
May 29th-31st 2020

1 Daleham Gardens, London, NW3 5BY, UK

“I knew that I had experienced the dream, but I do not know who wrote it. I wanted desparately to be introduced to the writer who could write those lines”, declared James Grotstein (1981). The statement points towards a questioning of personal identity, opening up to experiences at once alien and familiar. Relating to the essay The Uncanny and the self-reference it contains, Mark Fisher (2016) noted, “Freud’s unheimlich is about the strange within the familiar, the strangely familiar, the familiar as strange – about the way in which the domestic world does not coincide with itself. […] Psychoanalysis itself is an unheimlich genre; it is haunted by an outside which it circles around but can never fully acknowledge or affirm”.

In The Ego and the Id, we encounter the traces of this outside as an inside in the description of introjection as a setting up of the object inside the I, perhaps “the sole condition under which” the it can give up its objects. This account leads to a characterisation of the I as “a precipate of abandoned object-cathexes” which furthermore contains those object-choices’ history. The same text offers another definition in stating that the I is first and foremost a bodily I, and adding in a footnote that it “is ultimately derived from bodily sensations, chiefly from those springing from the surface of the body” (26). Thus, aside from the body as an object, an objective entity, there is the idea of the body as that through which the rest is experienced, as a sensing subject. The inner object or objects represent another duality, as core parts of the I, yet originally other.

We might think of Erik Erikson’s (1950) framing of identity development in terms of a series of stages with the potential for crises, distinguishing personal and social or cultural identity. Drawing on D. W. Winnicott (1951), Farhad Dalal (2002) emphasises how groups come together on the basis of illusory experiences, transitional phenomena. “In other words, group identity is always an abstraction, a reification, its basis being the shared ‘similarity of illusory experiences’. And it is precisely because of its illusory nature that it needs to be defended so vigorously.”

“As children we realized that we were different from boys and that we were treated different—for example, when we were told in the same breath to be quiet both for the sake of being ‘ladylike’ and to make us less objectionable in the eyes of white people. In the process of consciousness-raising, actually life-sharing, we began to recognize the commonality of our experiences and, from the sharing and growing consciousness, to build a politics that will change our lives and inevitably end our oppression”, wrote anti-racist feminist Zillah R. Eisenstein (1978). Identity politics are closely connected to the ascription that some social groups are oppressed (such as women, ethnic minorities, and sexual minorities), the claim that people who belong to those groups are, by virtue of their social identities, more vulnerable to forms of oppression such as cultural imperialism, violence, exploitation of labour, marginalization, or powerlessness. Identity politics can be right-wing as well as left-wing, with white supremacist and fascist movements exemplifying the former. Different forms of identity politics and debates about them are prominent in today’s political landscape, as do questions of how to define it, and of forms of identity politics that are unrecognized and unacknowledged. “When “identity politics” is practiced in such a way that it allows a small group to access and maintain power, it gets labeled as “norms” and treated as simply the way the world works,” wrote Helaine Olen (2019). Identity politics might for instance be based on religion, social class, culture, language, disability, education, race or ethnicity, language, sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation. Ethical and political questions include – Who is allowed to challenge someone’s professed identity? – Who gets to play with a social identity?

The word “tribe” can be defined as an extended kin group or clan with a common ancestor, or it can be described as a group with shared interests, lifestyles and habits. While tribal societies have been pushed to the edges of the Western world, tribalism, in the second sense, – in the sense of the tendency to identify, associate wih and support people who are seen to resemble oneself – is arguably undiminished. One sense of the word ‘humanism’ describes an opposite tendency to that of ‘tribalism’, signifying a recognition and benevolence towards all human beings without distinction.

The line from a drama by Terence, African and a former slave, and quoted by among others Cicero, Seneca and Saint Augustine, declared the message of universalism, “Homo sum: humani nihil a me alienum puto.“, “I am a human being: and I deem nothing pertaining to humanity is foreign to me.” After the Second World War, The United Nations Charter (1945) committed all member states to promote “universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion”. As these ideas of universality are once again being challenged in today’s world, we might ask about the basis for feelings of commonality between human beings, and about the grounds for identification.

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, anthropologists, and others. Perspectives from different psychoanalytic schools will be most welcome. We promote discussion among the presenters and participants, for the symposium series creates a space where representatives of different perspectives come together, engage with one another’s contributions and participate in a community of thought. Therefore, attendance to the whole symposium is obligatory. 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. There is a 10 min break in between each paper. Please send an abstract of 200 to 300 words, attached in a word-document, to psychoanalysis.politics[at]gmail.com by February 22nd 2020. We will respond by, and present a preliminary programme on March 1st 2020. 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 and an enjoyable social atmosphere is sought. A participation fee, which includes one shared dinner with wine, of £ 299 before March 20th 2020 – £ 383 between March 20th 2020 and May 1st 2020 – £ 449 after May 1st, is to be paid before the symposium.

Your place is only confirmed once we have received your registration including payment is completed. Additional information will be given after your abstract has been accepted or after the programme has been finalized.

We would like to thank the Institute of Group Analysis.

Unfortunately, we are unable to offer travel grants or other forms of financial assistance for this event, though we will be able to assist you in finding affordable accommodation after March 1st 2020. Please contact us if you wish to make a donation towards the conference. We thank all donors in advance!

NB: Please make sure you read the Guide for abstracts thoroughly.

Non-exclusive list of some relevant literature

Abraham, N./Torok, M./Rand, N. ed. (1975) “The Lost Object – Me: Notes on Endocryptic Identification” in The Shell and the Kernel, vol 1. Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press, 1994, pp. 139-156.

Adorno, T.W./Horkheimer, M. ([1944]1997) Dialectic of Enlightenment. London/New York: Verso.

Adorno, T.W/Frenkel-Brunswik, E./Levinson, D. J./Sanford, R. N. (1950) The Authoritarian Personality. N.Y: Harpers & Brothers.

Auestad, L. ed. (2012) Psychoanalysis and Politics. Exclusion and the Politics of Representation. London: Karnac/ Routledge.

Auestad, L. ed. (2014) Nationalism and the Body Politic. Psychoanalysis and the Rise of Ethnocentricm and Xenophobia. London: Karnac/ Routledge.

Auestad, L. (2015) Respect, Plurality, and Prejudice. A Psychoanalytical and Philosophical Enquiry into the Dynamics of Social Exclusion and Discrimination. London: Karnac/ Routledge.

Auestad, L. ed. (2017) Shared Traumas, Silent Loss, Public and Private Mourning. London: Karnac/ Routledge.

Auestad, L., Treacher Kabesh, A. eds. (2017) Traces of Violence and Freedom of Thought. London/ New York: Palgrave.

Bion, W. R. (1961) Experiences in Groups and Other Papers. London: Tavistock.

Butler, J. (2005) Giving Account of Oneself. New York: Fordham University Press.

Dalal, F. (1998) Taking the Group Seriously. Towards a Post-Foulksian Group Analytic Theory. London/ Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley.

Dalal, F. (2002) Race, Colour and the Proceses of Racialization. London/New York: Routledge.

Eisenstein, Z. R. (1978) The Combahee River Collective Statement http://circuitous.org/scraps/combahee.html

Erikson, E. (1950) Childhood and Society. New York: W. W. Norton & Co.

Fischer, M. (2016) The Weird and the Eerie. London: Repeater Books.

Freud, S. (1900a) The Interpretation of Dreams, SE, vol. 4 & 5.

Freud, S. (1912-13) Totem and Taboo. SE, vol. 13.

Freud, S. (1914c) On Narcissism: An Introduction. SE, vol. 14.

Freud, S. (1919h) The Uncanny SE, vol. 17.

Freud, S. (1921c) Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego. SE, vol. 18.

Freud. S. (1923b) The Ego and the Id. SE, vol. 19.

Freud, S. (1939a [1937-39]) Moses and Monotheism: Three Essays, SE, vol. 23.

Goffman, E. ([1959]1971) The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. London: Penguin Books.

Grotstein, J. (1981/1983) “Who Is the Dreamer Who Dreams the Dream and Who is the Dreamer Who Understands It?” in J. S. Grotstein ed. Do I Dare Disturb the Universe? A Memorial to W. R. Bion. London: Karnac.

Hopper, E. (2003) Traumatic Experience in the Unconscious Life of Groups. The Fourth Basic Assumption: Incohesion: Aggregation/Massification or (ba) I:A/M. London/Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Hopper, E./Weinberg, H. (2011) eds. The Social Unconscious in Persons, Groups and Societies. Vol. 1. Mainly Theory. London: Karnac.

Hopper, E./Weinberg, H. (2016) eds. The Social Unconscious in Persons, Groups and Societies. Vol. 2. Mainly Foundation Matrices. London: Karnac.

Hopper, E./Weinberg, H. (2017) eds. The Social Unconscious in Persons, Groups and Societies. Vol. 1. The Foundation Matrix Extended and Re-Configured. London: Karnac.

Kaës, R. (2007) “The question of the unconscious in common and shared psychic spaces” in J. C. Calich/H. Hinz eds. The Unconscious. Further Reflections. London: International Psychoanalytical Association, pp. 93-119.

Lacan, J. (1949) “The Mirror Stage as Formative of the I Function, as Revealed in Psychoanalytic Experience” in Écrits. The First Complete Edition in English. London/New York: Norton, 2006, pp. 75-81.

Laplanche, J. (1999[1992]) “The Unfinished Copernican Revolution” in Essays on Otherness. London/New York: Routledge.

Layton, L. (2008) “What Divides the Subject? Psychoanalytic Reflections on Subjectivity, Subjection and Resistance” in Subjectivity no. 22, pp. 60–72.

Meyers, D. T. (1994) Subjection & Subjectivity. Psychoanalytic Feminism & Moral Philosophy. New York/London: Routledge.

Olen, H. (2019) “The left embraces identity politics. But the right practices it much more effectively”, Washington Post, May 24th https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/05/24/left-embraces-identity-politics-right-practices-it-much-more-effectively/

Rickman, J. (1951) “Number and the human sciences” in John Rickman/Pearl King ed. No Ordinary Psychoanalyst. London: Karnac, 2003, pp. 109-115.

Sedgwick, E. K. (1985/2016) Between Men. English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire. New York: Columbia University Press.

Sinclair, V./Steinkoler, M. (2019) On Psychoanalysis and Violence. Contemporary Lacanian Perspectives. London/ New York: Routledge.

Taylor, C. (1989) Sources of the Self. The Making of the Modern Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Taylor, G. (1985) Pride, Shame and Guilt. Emotions of Self-Assessment. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Tubert-Oklander, J. (2014) The One and the Many. Relational Psychoanalysis and Group Analysis. London: Karnac.

UN (1945) Charter of the United Nations https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charter_of_the_United_Nations

Winnicott, (1951) “Transitional objects and transitional phenomena” in Through Paedriatrics to Psychoanalysis. London: Hogarth Press.

Winnicott, D. W. (1968) “The Use of an Object and Relating through Identifications” in Playing and Reality. London/New York: Routledge, 1971/2005, pp. 115-127.