Psychoanalysis Under Occupation
Practicing Resistance in Palestine
Heavily influenced by Frantz Fanon and critically engaging the theories of decoloniality and liberatory psychoanalysis, Lara Sheehi and Stephen Sheehi platform the lives, perspectives, and insights of psychoanalytically inflected Palestinian psychologists, psychiatrists, and other mental health professionals, centering the stories that non-clinical Palestinians have entrusted to them over four years of community engagement with clinicians throughout historic Palestine.
Sheehi and Sheehi document the stories of Palestinian clinicians in relation to settler colonialism and violence but, even more so, in relation to their patients, communities, families, and one another (as a clinical community). In doing so, they track the appearance of settler colonialism as a psychologically extractive process, one that is often effaced by discourses of "normalization," "trauma," "resilience," and human rights, with the aid of clinicians, as well as psychoanalysis.
Psychoanalysis Under Occupation: Practicing Resistance in Palestine unpacks the intersection of psychoanalysis as a psychological practice in Palestine, while also advancing a set of therapeutic theories in which to critically engage and "read" the politically complex array of conditions that define life for Palestinians living under Israeli occupation.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Setting the Frame
1. Practicing Disalienation
2. The Will to Live in Palestine
3. Psychoanalytic Innocence: The Ideological Misattunement of Dialogue
4. Psychotherapeutic Commons in Liberated Palestine
Epilogue: Resistance Keeps Us Sane
Lara Sheehi (she/her) is an Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychology at the George Washington University Professional Psychology program. Her work is on decolonial struggles as well as power, race, class, and gender constructs and dynamics within psychoanalysis. Lara is the secretary and president-elect of the Society for Psychoanalysis and Psychoanalytic Psychology and is the chair of the Teachers’ Academy of the American Psychoanalytic Association. She is co-editor of Studies in Gender & Sexuality and of Counterspace in Psychoanalysis, Culture and Society. Lara is on the advisory board to the USA-Palestine Mental Health Network and Psychoanalysis for Pride.
Stephen Sheehi (he/him) is the Sultan Qaboos Professor of Middle East Studies and Director of the Decolonizing Humanities Project at William & Mary, where he is also Professor of Arabic Studies in the Asian and Middle East Studies Program, Arabic Program, and Asian and Pacific Islander American Studies Program. His research is in the intellectual and cultural history of the Arab world (including indigenous photography), Islamophobia in the United States and Europe, and liberation thought and praxis in the context of colonialism, racism, capitalism, sexism, and cis-heteronormativity. He is the author of a number of books including Camera Palaestina: Photography and Displaced Histories of Palestine (with Salim Tamari and Issam Nassar), Arab Imago: A Social History of Portrait Photography, 1860-1910, and Islamophobia: The Ideological Campaign Against Muslims and Foundations of Modern Arab Identity.
Winner of the Best Academic Book Award at the Palestine Book Awards 2022.
"If you’re looking for another book on victims of apartheid-induced trauma or a psychoanalysis of occupation, this is not it. Instead, Lara Sheehi and Stephen Sheehi have written a brilliant, insurgent work of decolonial theory and practice that centers the labor of Palestinian clinicians and their patients seeking to restore and sustain a sense of self, community, cultural integrity, and ‘presence’ under the violence of settler colonialism. Building on and moving beyond Frantz Fanon, the authors understand the project of psychoanalysis in Palestine is not adjustment but resistance, liberation, and ultimately decolonization."
Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination
"Psychoanalysis Under Occupation makes a compelling argument that interrupts settler colonial epistemic violence. Theorized and discussed in a robust, sophisticated, and well-argued manner, Psychoanalysis Under Occupation prioritizes Palestinian clinician’s expressions, conceptualizing an Arab Palestinian theory of psychoanalyses and resistance. Lara and Stephen Sheehi’s thoughtful, and sensitive examination of al-nafs is a major contribution to psychoanalytic decolonial feminist knowledge produced as/through a liberatory struggle."
Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, Chair in Global Law, Queen Mary University of London and Professor of Criminology and Social Work, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
"How must one deal with the mental suffering of Palestinian patients? Based on an exhaustive analysis of the work of clinicians in Palestine, Lara Sheehi and Stephen Sheehi reject the paradigms of trauma and resilience, make the thought-provoking argument that these patients’ psychic life cannot be reduced to their experience of settler colonialism’s violence, and assert that their subjectivities remain open to desire, emancipation, and the will to live."
Didier Fassin, Professor of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study and to the Annual Chair of Public Health at the Collège de France
"Sometimes a book shakes you to your very core and makes you see the field you’ve practiced in for forty years in an entirely new way. This is that book. In bringing readers into the material realities of Palestinian life under Israeli Occupation, introducing us to Palestinian clinicians, patients, Israeli and Palestinian supervisors, Sheehi and Sheehi show clearly that the way psychoanalysis is deployed is literally a matter of life and death. They reveal the multiple ways psychoanalysis is mis-used by those consciously or unconsciously bent on normalizing a violent status quo. At the same time, by letting us listen in on the multiple ways that Palestinian patients and clinicians resist allowing their minds and bodies to be occupied, they reveal what is possible when psychoanalysis aims at liberation."
Lynne Layton, Ph.D., Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts Institute for Psychoanalysis
"Whether it is the history, the theoretical complications or the clinical practice of psychoanalysis in Palestine, Sheehi and Sheehi back up each claim with meticulous footnote referencing which points us to their sources and which also in many cases provides more elaboration of the argument. This is an eminently scholarly book, which is not to say that it is neutral, making a pretence to objectivity, a story told as if from nowhere and so, by default, from the standpoint of those with power."
Ian Parker, Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society
"This is a very difficult and important book for psychoanalysts, psychologists, and anyone involved in practice concerned with alleviating distress and challenging injustice, including the ways that oppression creates distress as a recognisable and understandable response to injustice.
Erica Burman, Psychotherapy and Politics International
"This is a ground-breaking, intentionally hard-hitting, and rousing call to "jihad" that simultaneously shakes psychoanalysis (and by association, group analysis) out of its own insidious double-standards. The authors take us through an imagined and applied process of decolonization through navigating difficult terrain and largely unchartered ‘Arab Psychoanalytic’ territories. What emerges is a remarkable story of awakening, remembering and resilience that reveals histories of oppression, the harmful and disingenuous underbelly of Western models of therapy and the transformational potential of paradox, mediated through the circular interchangeable notions and motions of Nafs, Jihad and Sumud."
Reem Shelhi, Group Analytic Society International
"Western, orientalist, and colonial notions of the trauma victim have plagued Palestinain mental health discourses since the British Mandate. Lara and Stephen Sheehi’s Psychoanalysis Under Occupation is a valiant attempt at resisting this discourse. Through a methodological, theoretical, and analytical approach that centres Indigenous experiences and knowledge systems, the book transports the reader through its pages into a world outside these liberal, hegemonic discourses. The reader’s understanding of psychoanalysis, of research and academia, and of Palestine is subsequently transformed by the books unapologetic militant, revolutionary and liberatory understanding of mental health and wellbeing."
Jeanine Hourani, the Hythe