Gender as Soft Assembly weaves together insights from different disciplinary domains to open up new vistas of clinical understanding of what it means to inhabit, to perform, and to be, gendered. Opposing the traditional notion of development as the linear unfolding of predictable stages, Adrienne Harris argues that children become gendered in multiply configured contexts. And she proffers new developmental models to capture the fluid, constructed, and creative experiences of becoming and being gendered. According to Harris, these models, and the images to which they give rise, articulate not only with contemporary relational psychoanalysis but also with recent research into the origins of mentalization and symbolization.
In urging us to think of gender as co-constructed in a variety of relational contexts, Harris enlarges her psychoanalytic sensibility with the insights of attachment theory, linguistics, queer theory, and feminist criticism. Nor is she inattentive to the impact of history and culture on gender meanings. Special consideration is given to chaos theory, which Harris positions at the cutting edge of developmental psychology and uses to generate new perspectives and new images for comprehending and working clinically with gender.
Introduction. Part I: Relational Developmental Theory. Multiple Selves, Multiple Codes. Timelines and Temporalities. Chaos Theory as a Theory of Development. Part II: Gender as Soft Assembly. Gender Narratives in Psychoanalysis. Tomboys' Stories. Gender as a Strange Attractor: Gender's Multidimensionality. Genders Emerge in Contexts. Part III: Developmental Theory and Research. Developmental Applications of Nonlinear Dynamic Systems Theory: Learning How to Mean. Dynamic Skills Theory: Relational Mourning as Shared Labor.
The Relational Perspectives Book Series (RPBS) publishes books that grow out of or contribute to the relational tradition in contemporary psychoanalysis. The term relational psychoanalysis was first used by Greenberg and Mitchell (1983) to bridge the traditions of interpersonal relations, as developed within interpersonal psychoanalysis and object relations, as developed within contemporary British theory. But, under the seminal work of the late Stephen Mitchell, the term relational psychoanalysis grew and began to accrue to itself many other influences and developments. Various tributaries—interpersonal psychoanalysis, object relations theory, self psychology, empirical infancy research, and elements of contemporary Freudian and Kleinian thought—flow into this tradition, which understands relational configurations between self and others, both real and fantasied, as the primary subject of psychoanalytic investigation.
We refer to the relational tradition, rather than to a relational school, to highlight that we are identifying a trend, a tendency within contemporary psychoanalysis, not a more formally organized or coherent school or system of beliefs. Our use of the term relational signifies a dimension of theory and practice that has become salient across the wide spectrum of contemporary psychoanalysis. Now under the editorial supervision of Lewis Aron and Adrienne Harris with the assistance of Associate Editors Steven Kuchuck and Eyal Rozmarin, the Relational Perspectives Book Series originated in 1990 under the editorial eye of the late Stephen A. Mitchell. Mitchell was the most prolific and influential of the originators of the relational tradition. He was committed to dialogue among psychoanalysts and he abhorred the authoritarianism that dictated adherence to a rigid set of beliefs or technical restrictions. He championed open discussion, comparative and integrative approaches, and he promoted new voices across the generations.
Included in the Relational Perspectives Book Series are authors and works that come from within the relational tradition, extend and develop the tradition, as well as works that critique relational approaches or compare and contrast it with alternative points of view. The series includes our most distinguished senior psychoanalysts along with younger contributors who bring fresh vision.