Anthropology and Psychoanalysis: An Encounter through Culture

By Suzette Heald; Ariane Deluz | Go to book overview
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The only notable exceptions in this regard are recent studies in that area of ethnopsychology which has become known as the anthropology of emotion; see Abu-lughod, 1986; Lutz, 1988.
A great deal of new research from Melanesia does deal with problems of identity and sexual difference for males. See Herdt, 1982, 1984; Herdt and Stoler, 1990.
McHugh has recently made this point using data on the Gurungs of Nepal and contra Dumont and Marriott (McHugh, 1989). Gewertz has also recently criticised Margaret Mead and Nancy Chodorow, who uses Mead’s original data, for assessing the strength and weaknesses of Tchambuli women in terms of their ability to individuate or act as individuals. Gewertz’s argument is simply that such an approach is ethnocentric (Gewertz, 1984).
I am greatly indebted to Judith Butler. Her work on gender identity has provided the inspiration for my argument in this section (Butler, 1990).


Florence Bégoin-Guignard

Although the subject of psychoanalysis is sexuality, not all the implications which follow from the differences between the sexes are recognised in the original Freudian parameters. Despite post-Freudian contributions, especially those of Klein and other women analysts, the implicit model which still prevails today in the ‘society’—in the ethnographic sense of the word—of psychoanalysts is that of a small Oedipal boy of 3 to 4 years old. The Lacanian movement, which has had its hour of glory in France, has only served to make this model more rigid, taking no account of the truly deep changes in social organisation which have occurred since Freud.

Thus there is much to say on the latent significance of the sacrosanct ‘law of the father’, which is supposed to separate the mother from the child and therefore, from the manifest point of view, prohibits heterosexual incest for the boy and homosexual incest for the girl. To take this law literally is to forget that the infantile desire of the father is also realised in it, in the return of the repressed from his own childhood: ‘You took my mother away from me, I take her back from you’—implying thus a conflation of mother/wife. So one might oppose the mythical Oedipus with ‘his swollen feet’ to an Oedipus with ‘little feet’, an adult man who uses the power bestowed upon him by the law which he himself has established, in order to evade it by giving his transgression the appearance of legitimacy.

In dealing with the person, this paper not only raises the question of individuation but equally the questions of splitting and identifications, and particularly the balance between different types of identifications. On the issue of physical embodiment, I would suggest that, from a psychoanalytic


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Anthropology and Psychoanalysis: An Encounter through Culture


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