Death v. Life

The Strange Temporalities and Radical Democratic Imaginaries of a Pandemic

by Jill Gentile                June 2nd at 6 pm GMT

Part of the Psychoanalysis and Politics series Crises and Transmission

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The novel coronavirus, and the ensuing global racial uprisings have drawn the world into what may be seen as a social psychoanalysis, including a fierce contestation between forces for destruction and those for life and its vitality. We will question our alliance with death-bound repetition compulsions, even as we also long for release, for new dis-orderings, emancipation, even ecstasy. Can signage of the ‘weird’ and ‘strange’ inspire us, call us to a confrontation with our repressed ancestral legacies, while also guiding us towards transformation and genuine encounters, finally, with a long repudiated and exiled Otherness? And if psychoanalysis is to refuse to tarry with mere repetition and its self-same whiteness, privilege, and familiar hierarchies, and orthodoxies, mustn’t it, too, evolve, and reckon with how we might impel radical subjective and political change—perhaps a Radical Democratic Imaginary—into its theory and praxis?

Jill Gentile, Ph.D is faculty member at the NYU Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis and the Institute for the Psychoanalytic Study of Subjectivity. She sits on several editorial boards including Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association (JAPA), Studies in Gender and SexualityContemporary Psychoanalysis, and Psychoanalysis, Self, and Context. She was awarded the 2017 Gradiva Award for her essay, “What is special about speech?”  Her book Feminine Law: Freud, Free Speech, and the Voice of Desire, with Michael Macrone (Karnac, 2016) explores psychoanalysis’s relationship to democracy through the lenses of free association, freedom of speech, and the feminine. She practices in NYC where she consults with adults and couples, and also leads private study & clinical supervision groups for colleagues.

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Image: Egon Schiele (1915) Death and the Maiden, Belvedore Museum, Vienna, via Jeremy Weate, Flickr.