Anthropology and Psychoanalysis: An Encounter through Culture

By Suzette Heald; Ariane Deluz | Go to book overview
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Introduction

Suzette Heald with Ariane Deluz and Pierre-Yves Jacopin

This book brings anthropologists and psychoanalysts together in a common project, exploring the interface between the two disciplines through the interpretation of culture. It is based on papers presented at a colloquium, entitled Culture, Psychanalyse, Interprétation, held in Paris in July 1991 at the Collège de France, organised by Ariane Deluz and Suzette Heald. The colloquium took the form of anthropologists—French, British, Australian and North American—experimenting with psychoanalytic interpretations of their material. A group of psychoanalysts, also from international backgrounds, was then invited to comment on these interpretations. The book keeps the same structure in the hope of purveying some of the excitement of the colloquium and in order to point to new ways of conceiving the relationship between the disciplines and to new possibilities for collaboration.

The project begun by Freud on the psychoanalytic interpretation of culture has been largely ignored, when not explicitly rejected, by European anthropology, though even an unsympathetic commentator such as Edmund Leach (1958) could admit that the puzzle posed by a parallelism in interpretations has continued to fascinate. Today this fascination has new relevance as anthropologists have become interested in problems of subjectivity; in exploring the different conceptions of the self in a way which extends beyond the simple description of cultural difference to attempt to grasp something of the internal dynamic of a worldview. As the old reified view of society has been abandoned, anthropologists have shown a readiness to engage in a dialogue with a discipline which was at one time regarded as antithetical. At the same time psychoanalysis itself has moved on, with new interpretative methods which stress the importance of the interactive context and the temporal dimensions of symbolic formations. Symbolic complexes are no longer held to yield a determinate meaning, but rather seen as moving gestalts of signification. With both disciplines attempting to grapple with the radical indeterminacy of meaning, the time appears ripe for a rapprochement.

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