Race in Psychoanalysis: Aboriginal Populations in the Mind, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Race in Psychoanalysis

Aboriginal Populations in the Mind, 1st Edition

By Celia Brickman


264 pages

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Paperback: 9781138749399
pub: 2017-12-05
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pub: 2017-12-05
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Race in Psychoanalysis analyzes the often-unrecognized racism in psychoanalysis by examining how the colonialist discourse of late nineteenth-century anthropology made its way into Freud’s foundational texts, where it has remained and continues to exert a hidden influence. Recent racial violence, particularly in the US, has made many realize that academic and professional disciplines, as well as social and political institutions, need to be re-examined for the racial biases they may contain. Psychoanalysis is no exception.

When Freud applied his insights to the history of the psyche and of civilization, he made liberal use of the anthropology of his time, which was steeped in colonial, racist thought. Although it has often been assumed that this usage was confined to his non-clinical works, this book argues that through the pivotal concept of "primitivity," it fed back into his theories of the psyche and of clinical technique as well.

Celia Brickman examines how the discourse concerning the presumed primitivity of colonized and enslaved peoples contributed to psychoanalytic understandings of self and raced other. She shows how psychoanalytic constructions of race and gender are related, and how Freud’s attitudes towards primitivity were related to the anti-Semitism of his time. All of this is demonstrated to be part of the modernist aim of psychoanalysis, which seeks to create a modern subjectivity through a renegotiation of the past. Finally, the book shows how all of this can affect both clinician and patient within the contemporary clinical encounter. 

Race in Psychoanalysis is a pivotal work of significance for scholars, practitioners and students of psychoanalysis, psychologists, clinical social workers, and other clinicians whose work is informed by psychoanalytic insights, as well as those engaged in critical race and postcolonial studies.


"Celia Brickman’s masterpiece, Race In Psychoanalysis, is one of only a handful of books that I would describe as having profoundly changed the way I think about Freud and the development of psychoanalysis…Brickman’s book will remain a classic and generations of analysts will need to study it to understand and reconceptualize the most fundamental assumptions and tenets of psychoanalysis…"-from the foreword by Lewis Aron, Ph.D., Director, New York University Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy & Psychoanalysis.

"Brickman’s remarkably innovative work turns the lens of post-colonial theory on the unconscious racial assumptions of psychoanalysis, offering a new and radical take on the central tension in Freud’s thoughts between valorizing and undermining the idea of the "civilized" world. Erudite, lucid and compelling, Race in Psychoanalysis is a timely argument for transforming psychoanalysis into a genuinely critical theory of the repudiation of the Other. It should be read by all students of psychoanalysis as well as everyone interested in the history of psychoanalysis and its contribution to modern thought."-Jessica Benjamin, author of Beyond Doer and Done To: Recognition Theory, Intersubjectivity and the Third."

"In Race in Psychoanalysis: Aboriginal Populations in the Mind, Celia Brickman illuminates the manner in which our colonialist and enslaving past continues to reverberate within the construction of psychoanalytic theory and practice. Taking a thoughtful and detailed tour through the history of Freud’s relationship with the sociopolitical forces within Europe during his time, Brickman chronicles the various iterations of the use of the darkened masses as timeless and primitive. Illuminating the way race and racialized object relations permeate our canonical texts, her perspective is a wonderful new resource to locate pathways to a multicultural, racial, and ethnically diverse discourse within theory construction and training in psychoanalysis."The pitfalls and paradoxes concerning race that are embedded within the field" become points of access for those perceived as other, not-white, and different from whiteness to become psychoanalysts. Brickman points to the lived psychodynamics of racialization as the way to further Freud’s wish that his project be for the people."-Annie Lee Jones, Ph.D., clinical psychologist/psychoanalyst, member of Black Psychoanalysts Speak.

Table of Contents

Foreword by Lewis Aron Preface; Introduction; 1. The Figure of the Primitive: A Brief Genealogy; 2. Psychoanalysis and the Colonial Imagination: Evolutionary Thought in Freud’s Texts; 3. Race and Gender, Primitivity and Femininity: Psychologies of Enthrallment; 4. Historicizing Consciousness: Time, History, and Religion; 5. Primitivity in the Analytic Encounter; Epilogue

About the Author

Celia Brickman, Ph.D., is scholar-in-residence at the Center for Religion and Psychotherapy of Chicago, where she practices psychotherapy and previously was the Director of Education and a faculty member. She received her PhD from the University of Chicago, has been a visiting lecturer at the Chicago Institute of Social Work and a senior fellow at the University of Chicago’s Divinity School, and has given talks throughout the United States. In addition to this book, the first edition of which was nominated for a Gradiva Award, she is the author of several articles and book chapters on psychoanalysis, race and religion.

About the Series

Relational Perspectives Book Series

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.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PSYCHOLOGY / Movements / Psychoanalysis
PSYCHOLOGY / Mental Health