On Play’s Cruelty: Between Playpen and Detention Centre

By FADI ABOU-RIHAN – Feb. 8th 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

Part of the Psychoanalysis and Politics series Crises and Transmission

With the found object, Winnicott expanded the dyadic in psychoanalysis in favour of a tripartite structure (inner, outer and transitional). Finding thus becomes the ground for the elaboration of a similar expansion of one of the most problematic of analytic polarities—Eros/Thanatos. This expansion highlights Ludens (Huizinga) as yet a third drive that animates the psyche. Rather than a frontier or abyss, Ludens operates in the space separating Eros from Thanatos as it draws on both for energy and directions. Ludens is play once play has been recognized as pleasurable and hurtful, to the point of being cruel, enlivening and deadening, and sometimes even deadly, innocent and guilty, to the extent where its guilt may be unfathomable. Ludens exposes cruelty as a constitutive component to play rather than its occasional by-product. In the spirit of analyzing the extreme in order to shed light on the everyday, the pictures of Abu-Ghraib detainees from the early noughts illustrate the extent to which Ludens endures, how it operates in a space where means and ends collide, where an action does not suffer the lack of justification since it is forever its own justification and, by extension, consequence.

Fadi Abou-Rihan is a Psychotherapist and Psychoanalyst based in Toronto, and a Dr. of Philosophy. His forthcoming book, Finding Winnicott: Philosophical Encounters with the Psychoanalytic, will be published by Routledge in March 2023.

Image: Goya (Francisco de Goya y Lucientes): (ca. 1815) The Custody of a Prisoner Does Not Call for Torture (La seguridad de un reo no exige tormento), Etching and burin, selection. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

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