Anthropology and Psychoanalysis: An Encounter through Culture

By Suzette Heald; Ariane Deluz | Go to book overview

11

Indulgent fathers and collective male violence

L.R. Hiatt

Towards the end of an essay I published a few years ago on ‘Freud and anthropology’ (Hiatt, 1987), I made some tentative remarks about the Oedipus complex in the light of modern studies in behavioural primatology and brain evolution. More recently, I attempted to develop this perspective in an article called ‘Towards a natural history of fatherhood’ (Hiatt, 1990). The present paper continues the project by examining the relationship between fathers and sons in the context of initiation among the Australian Aborigines. The empirical materials are drawn largely from On Aboriginal Religion by W.E.H. Stanner, published first as a series of articles in Oceania between 1959 and 1963 and later as a monograph. 1 However, I touch on a more general issue, viz. what is the significance for psychoanalytic theory of the fact that fathers in many cultures not only love their sons but behave lovingly towards them?

As we all know, the archetypal father of Totem and Taboo was a violent male who defended his harem against all-comers and expelled his sons from the primal horde as they reached maturity. Freud based his depiction on some speculations by Darwin about early human breeding units, as well as certain statements by Atkinson concerning ‘parricide’ in herds of wild cattle and horses (Freud, 1919:325). However, we learn virtually nothing about the primal sire except that he had a bad temper. The representation of the sons is more complex: as well as hostility for the father, they also felt tenderness, and hence remorse for their rebellion against him. Why they should have been fond of the tyrant who made lives miserable remains a mystery. One looks in vain for a mention of paternal love.

The contrast between Freudian archetype and anthropological reality is stark. In the ethnographic record, paternal love abounds. The implication of this fact for psychoanalytic theory was discussed incisively by Spiro in his important book Oedipus in the Trobriands (1982). More recently, Hewlett (1991) has presented the most systematic account of paternal love among hunter-gatherers yet published. In his book Intimate Fathers he says that

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Anthropology and Psychoanalysis: An Encounter through Culture
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface xi
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • Part I - Complementarity 27
  • 2 - Interpreting the Implicit 29
  • Bibliography 39
  • 3 - Incestuous Fantasy and Kinship among the Guro 40
  • Bibliography 53
  • 4 - Islam, Symbolic Hegemony and the Problem of Bodily Expression 54
  • Bibliography 69
  • 5 - Trauma and Ego-Syntonic Response 70
  • Part II - The Analysis of Dreams 97
  • 6 - Dream Imagery Becomes Social Experience 99
  • Bibliography 112
  • 7 - Psychoanalysis, Unconscious Phantasy and Interpretation 114
  • Part III - The Lacanian Perspective 129
  • 8 - Gendered Persons 131
  • Notes 149
  • 9 - Lacanian Ethnopsychoanalysis 153
  • Bibliography 161
  • 10 - Lacan and Anthropology 163
  • Part IV - Working Models 169
  • 11 - Indulgent Fathers and Collective Male Violence 171
  • 12 - Every Man a Hero 184
  • Bibliography 208
  • 13 - Symbolic Homosexuality and Cultural Theory 210
  • Note 223
  • 14 - Psychoanalysis as Content 225
  • Index 239
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