Opening words, Berlin conference, Fascist Imaginaries

June 3rd 2022

Lene Auestad: Hello, everyone, and welcome to this Psychoanalysis and Politics conference entitled “Fascist Imaginaries”. I am sure this theme has different connotations for each of us, both historical and contemporary, and in the form of historical traumas and more recent traumas. And when grappling with these frightening phenomena, our thinking is tied to the question of “What do we do?” – our understanding of what is central to fascist imaginaries and manifestations of fascist-like violence impact on we think we should deal with this – to prevent outbreaks of racist violence and genocide from happening again and again.

We are currently in the midst of several crises – we have lived through a pandemic, with isolation and a number of restrictions, which has led to a financial crisis – and when we thought it is finally over, we can breathe again, see each other again and feel safe again, we have got the shocking occurrence of Russia’s violent attack on Ukraine.

The owl of Minerva flies only after dark – it takes a while to be able to think about incidents like these, understanding is slow and difficult. I don’t believe we yet know what the years of the pandemic and chaos have done to us, and I think we don’t yet know what this war is doing, how it’s affecting us, some much more than others. I can add that we have tried to get some of the German analysts who work on this situation to come and address it here, though they felt unable – that it was too up close to come and present in a paper.

The conference series Psychoanalysis and Politics started in 2010 to address how contemporary and historical social and political phenomena may be understood in the light of psychoanalytic thinking, and how these phenomena reflect back on this body of thought. The theme of this conference has got forerunners in two of the earlier ones, in particular the very first one, Exclusion and the Politics of Representation – which became a book published by Karnac, now Routledge, and the second one, Nationalism and the Body Politic. The book is subtitled Psychoanalysis and the Rise of Ethnocentrism and Xenophobia. Then, as now, it was based on the feeling of seeing the rise of nationalist and racist parties in different European countries, anxiously watching how much support they would get in elections in one country or another, not knowing where the violence would explode.

After that, we put on several conferences on trauma and mourning – you can think of the link provided by Alexander and Margarete Mitserlich’s title The Inability to Mourn – and I brought a copy of this book to the Berlin Institute – Shared Traumas, Silent Loss, Public and Private Mourning. Some chapters relate to the Holocaust, others to the aftermath of violence and genocide across the world.

This conference has been long in the making. It was mentioned yesterday that it may have been as much as four years since we first conceived of this conference at the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute, until now we are finally here. I am very grateful for all the support, friendliness and active engagement shown by the Karl Abraham Institute, by which I mean in particular Claudia Thußbas, Angelika Ebrecht-Laermann and Amelie Klambeck.

Amelie Klambeck: Hello all together. My name is Amelie Klambeck. As a member of the Karl-Abraham-Institut it is my task to welcome you in the name of the Institut: Welcome to the Berliner Psychoanalytisches Institut! We are very pleased to have you all as our guests today, and especially you, Lene, bringing your conference to us. We are very glad, that you decided to have one of your conferences here. We are curious to get to know and learn about your work and we are happy to be able to take part in the conference today.

Now I will say some words in Norwegian. I will not say anything, which I haven‘t already said in English, but I hope, that it will help you to feel more like home here: Vi er glade for at du ønsket å komme til oss med konferansen din. Vi er nysgjerrige på arbeidet ditt. Og vi er lykkelige for å kunne delta på konferansen i dag.

Varm velkomst.

Lene Auestad: Tusen takk! Danke schön! Thank you very much!

Even though we are fewer here than we have been at previous Psychoanalysis and Politics conferences, it is very special that we are gathered here together, bringing perspectives from various countries and continents, including Africa and Latin-America, which is very good for widening our horizon of understanding. We hope that the encounters between us here, in this space, can provide new reflections on the themes that preoccupy us. So we’ll start by doing an introduction round – please say who you are and what brings you to your interest in this topic…

A blurry picture (the only one) of Lene Auestad (left) and Amelie Klambeck (right). 

The picture on top of the page: Listening in Berlin. John Swedenmark presenting his paper, Jonathan Sklar chairing.