Aboriginal Populations in the Mind. Race and Primitivity in by Celia Brickman

By Celia Brickman

What half does racial distinction play in psychoanalysis? What may be realized while contemplating this question from a postcolonial viewpoint? during this refined and commanding research, Celia Brickman explores how the colonialist racial discourse of late-nineteenth-century anthropology discovered its approach into Freud´s paintings, the place it got here to play a covert yet an important position in his notions of subjectivity. Brickman argues that the typical psychoanalytic idea of "primitivity" as an early degree of mental improvement inevitably contains with it implications of an anthropologically understood "primitivity," which used to be conceived by way of Freud -and possibly nonetheless is this present day -in colonialist and racial phrases. She relates the racial subtext embedded in Freud´s inspiration to his representations of gender and faith and exhibits how this subtext varieties a part of the bigger historicizing pattern of the psychoanalytic undertaking. ultimately, she indicates how colonialist lines have made their approach into the...

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19 The American native was seen both as lacking the attributes of the European and as embodying the attributes of the fantasized exotic other. Both characterizations functioned to further whatever colonial policy was to be promulgated, and to explain the availability of native peoples for European exploitation as due to their very natures. In Europe, the idea of the Noble Savage may have figured as a living critique of the burden of civilization; but when peoples were so described by explorers and settlers in the New World, it was often to indicate the gentleness and ease with which it was hoped they would become subservient to that same civilization by taking up the twin yokes of Christianity and slavery.

In the academy I was confronted with the trenchant critiques of postcolonial theorists who considered the idea of “the primitive” to be a long-abandoned relic of anthropology’s colonial ancestry, where its invocation of the presumed inferiority of non-white and non-western peoples as well as of the romance of lost origins had served to contribute to the legitimation of Europe’s colonial and slaving enterprises around the globe. In my clinical training and work I was guided toward the care of psychological suffering within a discursive framework that made liberal use of the term primitivity to describe the behaviors that characterized the painful situations in which our patients found themselves.

Columbus’s first descriptions of the people he met seemed to indicate that what he could not recognize, they did not have: no clothes, no religion, no reason, no laws or private property, and even no language. Their lands were characterized as belonging to no one: terra nullius. What was unintelligible simply did not seem to exist, and thus these peoples were seen as deficient and inferior compared to European standards. 19 The American native was seen both as lacking the attributes of the European and as embodying the attributes of the fantasized exotic other.

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