Between Animal and Machine: Identifications and Revolts, Revolting Identifications

By LENE AUESTAD – Jan. 18th at 6 pm London time/ 7 pm Berlin time/ 8 pm Cape Town and Jerusalem time/ 1 pm New York Time/ 12 noon Chicago time/ 10 am Vancouver time NB: This is a Thursday

Part of the Psychoanalysis and Politics series Crises and Transmission

When holding up a mirror to ourselves, to try to understand what kind of creatures we are, human beings can look towards machines as objects to identify with, or look towards animals. Arguably, since Descartes, machines have been the dominant objects of identification, as exemplified by conceiving of the body as a kind of machine, or of the brain as a computer. This idea underlies technical-instrumental approaches to improvements of human beings, or attempts at such. Another strand of imagination looks towards animals as beings we identify or disidentify with, are attracted to and repelled by, nurture, cherish and abuse. Psychoanalytic thinking is more closely aligned with the latter strand in conceiving of human beings as beings with some needs and affects that are similar to those of animals, and in sympathising with these aspects of our nature. This paper constitutes an attempt to examine our ambivalence towards animals and towards the animals within us. In particular, I shall focus on the surrealist painter and writer Leonora Carrington and her story of a hyena, “The debutante”.

Lene Auestad is a Dr. of Philosophy from The Ethics Programme, University of Oslo, the Founder of Psychoanalysis and Politics and an Associate member of the Norwegian Psychoanalytic Society. She is the author of Respect, Plurality, and Prejudice: A Psychoanalytical and Philosophical Enquiry into the Dynamics of Social Exclusion and Discrimination, Karnac/ Routledge, 2015, and a number of other publications. She writes and lectures internationally on ethics, critical theory and psychoanalysis, with a particular focus on prejudice, racism, discrimination, trauma and nationalism.


This seminar has passed. The film based on the seminar is available for rental, see Films. 

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Image: Leonora Carrington (1937-1938) Self-portrait (Inn of the Dawn Horse), Metropolitan Museum of Art. Source: Wikimedia Commons.