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Dark continents : postcolonial encounters with psychoanalysis McInturff, Kate

Abstract

This work examines the use of psychoanalytic terms and concepts in postcolonial theory, with attention to the social and historical contexts in which those terms and models originated. The thesis provides an overview of the different academic and political contexts out of which postcolonial theory evolved, focusing on how identity came to be a central term within postcolonial debates. Drawing on the work of scholars such as Anne McClintock, it critiques the current use of psychoanalytic models by postcolonial theorists, arguing that psychoanalysis is itself implicated in the history of European imperialism and brings with it concomitant assumptions about the nature of race, class, gender, and sexuality. The thesis provides an overview of the work of Charcot, Freud and Lacan. It takes up some of their major contributions to psychoanalysis, and discusses the social and political contexts in which those works were developed. The thesis goes on to provide a detailed analysis of the intersection of postcolonial theory and psychoanalysis in the work of Frantz Fanon, Edward Said, Homi Bhabha and Helene Cixous. The thesis concludes by discussing what I view as the two major ethical and intellectual problems that arise from the use of psychoanalysis in postcolonial theory. I argue, first, that psychoanalysis developed within the same cultural and political context as European colonialism. In spite of its moments of self-consciousness, psychoanalysis, nonetheless, reproduces some of the models of identity that supported European imperialism, both in Europe and abroad. Secondly, I argue that psychoanalysis takes, at root, a pessimistic view of human nature and this pessimism is fundamentally at odds with the emancipatory motives of postcolonial theory.

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