Thursday, December 25, 2008

Dear All,
An article titled "Jacques Lacan, Barred Psychologist" by Ian Parker of
Manchester Metropolitan University will be uploaded in the blog soon. Please read this article before the next class.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Hello, I am Sonali (Sonali De, Department of Psychology, University of Calcutta.

I want to join the blog and participate in the discussions.

The blog looks interesting.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Revisiting Freud

“Freud is dead”…. In our world of technological advancement and development why do we need to look at the work of a man who came up with some theory nearly two centuries earlier to suit that particular context and which does not seem to be relevant in our interactions today? Why then should we feel the need to study Freud or his theory? …. these are questions we seem to have answered or do not feel the need to answer being faced with the options we have before us. And then suddenly out of nowhere we are faced with a 26/11(Mumbai Bomb Blasts). It is in the obvious confrontation with terror that we ponder over the logic of “unreason” or what also may be referred to as the logos or logic of the psyche. It is in this unreason or irrationality that Freud introduced the unconscious.

Freud in his philosophy attempts to answer the fundamental existential questions that most philosophers to date have been grappling with: who am I? What am I doing in this life...? is there an absolute truth or are there just perceptions of what may be true at one point in time. Freud emphasised on the “non-emphasis” on fundamental truth or insight. Proclaiming that psychoanalysis is more of a theory or an attitude towards understanding the truth. And therefore psychoanalysis according to Freud is not a profession.

With this short introduction providing the basis for a need to return to Freud we watched clippings from a document titled the “Archaeology of the Unconscious” which encompassed the different aspects of Freud’s life: his personal and professional endeavours.

We began our journey with “Berggasse 19” which took us through the city in which Freud lived for more than 78years of his life: the city of Vienna. “Berggasse 19” was the address at which Freud began his family and his clinic and the house has ever since been recognised because of its association with Freud.

If one were to try and map out Freud’s academic and professional turning points, his stints with areas such as philosophy, to zoology and back to medicine and neuroanatomy makes us identify the wanderer in him. His search for meaning took him to uncovering the unconscious which was a product of different experiences and the self analysis of those experiences in the form of dream analysis, which in turn led to his most famous publication the “interpretation of dreams”. He saw dreams as a medium through which the unconscious can be discovered being hidden under the guise of our “conscious” defences. Simultaneously this unpacking aided by his work on hysteria and hypnosis led to his interpretation of the source of these unconscious wishes, which primarily according to him developed in the unconscious conflicting desires and wishes of childhood. Most of Freud’s latter theorisation was an elaboration of this basic principle there by attempting to provide structure to the understanding of these concepts. Freud’s work exemplifies an unravelling of symbols that may seem obvious at the surface but may be enmeshed with underlying implicit intentions which one may “unknowingly” want to express.

Another aspect in the understanding of Freud is his use and labelling of terms like couch and armchair in the therapeutic settings which today have become representative of psychoanalysis in the clinic. His usage of the free association technique to uncover the unconscious is another pathway in that direction. The development of his theory not only has broader implications on the therapeutic relationship but also on the dynamics embedded within this relationship. Freud’s theories stem primarily from his work with clients suffering from various kinds of neurosis, each individual case exemplifying a different dimension of the unconscious, contributing in the enhancement of the theory of the unconscious.

Thus Freud in his search for meaning gave rise to a new ideological rollercoaster which not just clamours our train of thoughts to move beyond the obvious but also explores a possible reason for the “unreason”.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Arundathi Roy on the Aftermath of Mumbai Attacks

Following is an article entitled "Monster in the Mirror" by Arundati Roy who raises some interesting questions on the aftermath of recent Mumbai attacks. What makes the article more significant for our course is that it uses the same metaphor/motif with which we began our course - the mirror.

Roy, Arundati. "Monster in the Mirror". The Guardian. 3 Dec 2008.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Second Session Notes by Sayori

(Second session was held on Sunday, 7 December 08)

Your browser may not support display of this image.Taking off from the concept of subjectivity as discussed in the previous class, we came to analyze the elements of a Lacanian understanding/snapshot of the individual or in other words an understanding that an individual’s subjectivity would be made up of the complex web of textuality, history and experience. In discussing subjectivity, one cannot leave out its binary opposite which is objectivity. Social sciences try to imitate the natural sciences to gain a similar ‘status’ by trying to be objective in their mode of knowledge production and acquisition. For contemporary theorists/critics, the call today is for reinstating subjectivity as the primary mode of knowing the Other. Since even disciplines, like physics, are re-thinking their claim to objectivity.

To reintroduce subjectivity, there have to be shifts within the disciplines. One such shift would be the shift from

  • Light → sound

A shift of knowledge acquisition from seeing to hearing.

  • Objectivity → subjectivity

Which would include apparent understanding to deeper understanding, biological to psychic and linear understanding of time to knotted.

The given understanding of time, propagated by the West as universal can be represented in the form of a step ladder where progress is from the lower rung to higher rung, savage and primitive to capitalist and civilized. Movement has to be unidirectional and linear and is always necessary. Lacan offers a different understanding of time wherein he perceives time as knotted. He does not consider the past and present as distinct from one another but rather sees the past even within the present. For instance, the same kitchen will have a micro oven (invented in the 20C) and a grinder (which has survived from the Paleolithic age). This concept of time is also present in Stephen J. Gould understanding of the same. Instead of the conventional Christmas tree structure of evolution where man is at the top and is considered most important and most evolved, Gould uses the metaphor of a grass field to describe the process of evolution. According to his theory, all species evolved simultaneously, like grasses in a field, of which the insect was perhaps as complex as man. He showed that the simplistic notion of a linear evolution from primates to humans is problematic. In this light, developmental psychology is flawed because it is based on the linear development of infants to adults as opposed to the Lacanian or Freudian understanding of an adult who also has an infant within.

Linguistic turn:

According to Lacan, we inhabit language and language inhabits us. Language is a structure and a constituent of the psyche. Those who have a common language share a relative language game. There are 3 Lacanian phases in human subjectivity: imaginary, symbolic and real. In his sessions, he would stop the analysis irrespective of the time when the client in his speech moving from imaginary and through symbolic hit upon the real, to let the person suffer the truth. The imaginary would be about relationships circumscribed by images that are nameless and has no tags. Symbolic would be named relation where naming the relation would set the do’s and don’ts and define the taboos that come with language.

Name of the father:

Physical father is not as important as the demise of the father which brings the law of the ‘father’ all the more.

We concluded the class by drawing upon 2 models of doing psychology, the conventional being the triad of normal, abnormal and cure. The second initiated by Lacan would be the binary of knowledge and non-knowledge where he deliberately chooses truth over cure. Although once the truth is arrived at one suffers whereas unless we come across the truth we remain cured.

First Session Notes by Harita Atluri

(First Session was held on Saturday, 6 December 08)

The class began with the discussion on the possibility of two approaches to understanding the psyche –

  • First would be the psychophysics way, that is, going to the level of microtubular structures of cell and thinking the mind. For instance, Roger Penrose is a psychophysicist who thinks that the mind is divisible into neurons and neurotransmitters and chemical reactions.
  • The second approach as supported by Erica Burman is seeing individual mental health as a reflection of the social mental health.

The class took off from the question “Can they be a military solution to a political problem?”

It arose from the contemporary issue of Bombay blasts. In this context he introduced some of Lacan’s concepts which can be considered relevant in the treatment of the Bombay issue:

  • First is to get the facts right before impulsively making a statement or treatment.
  • Second would be to avoid the simplistic and inconsequential labeling like terrorist or abnormal. He himself gives up the terms like psychosis or neurosis since he believes that such labels do not help us understand the individual and achieve anything.
  • Third, he emphasized on the linguistic structure and brought about the linguistic turn in psychology. Instead of merely naming and labeling, he asked psychologists to attend to narratives, psychic structures and textualities; thereby not to pay attention to the broader categories but rather to the details. In doing away with names and labels he blurs the distinction between the inside and the outside of the discipline as well as between the analyzer and analysant. To quote Lacan: “We are made of the same clay we mould.” He implies therefore that the psychologist or psychoanalyst cannot and more importantly should not detach himself from the client.

Subjectivity as a mode of approach to the disciplines is introduced by Lacan. There are two ways of knowing the ‘other’:

  • Visual apparatus and
  • Audio apparatus.

In medicine practice the visual has always been given priority over the auditory whereas psychoanalysis gives preference to the latter. Even in history and myths, the visual has dominated among all the modes of knowledge acquisition. Historically, we can trace back to Plato where he gives preference to the visual in his cave metaphor in Book 7, The Republic. In myths, we have the popular anecdote of Arjuna being the perfect warrior because he is able to see only “eye” of the bird. He could not see the context in which the bird is and therefore he couldn’t see the “I” (the subjectivity) of the bird.

Lacan delivers 20 seminars at St. Agnes hospital. With one seminar each year, there is a gap of one year in between when he does not conduct the seminar because he is expelled from the International Psychoanalytic Society. His 21st seminar is on ‘TV: A Challenge to Psychoanalytic Establishment’ and is done through television. After this he dismantles his psychoanalytic institute telling his followers “It is up to you to be Lacanian, I remain Freudian”.

For those who do not seem to relate to the mainstream given understanding of shared reality, a reality which is agreed upon, Lacan invites psychologists to think of an alternate reality instead of merely pathologizing them. Therefore, he altered the notions like psychosis which came to mean for him not a breakdown of sanity or of reality but an alternative cosmology.

Ecritis was taken up for close reading in the class. It’s a French word, meaning collection and writing. In that the chapter ‘Beyond the Reality Principle’ is taken off from Freud’s ‘Beyond the Pleasure Principle’. In this context, we talked about how Lacan gave emphasis on understanding of the subjective entities rather than the biological entities. He goes as far as to say, there is no sexual relation referring to the relation between biological beings!

' Depression, culturebound syndrome' by Sabah

Following essay is by Sabah Siddiqui and Vidhi Shah. To download the pdf version of this document, please click here or on the title below.

Siddiqui, Sabah and Vidhi Shah. 'Depression, culturebound syndrome'

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

'Science(s) of the Mind: Fort-Da between the Windscreen and the Rearview Mirror ' by Anup Dhar

Following is an essay by Anup Kumar Dhar. To download the pdf version of this document, please click here. The pdf is not downloadable on the networks which have restricted acess or networks that block certain sites.

Dhar, Anup Kumar. 'Science(s) of the Mind: Fort-Da between the Windscreen and the Rearview Mirror'

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Psychology After Lacan - Course Schedule






Classes will be held on 2 Saturday afternoons and 1 Sunday in Dec 2008, and 1 or 2 Sundays in Jan, Feb, and March 2009.


Ø Dec 06 (Saturday) 2-6 pm

Session 1: Lacan: Life and works

Readings: (1) “Jacques-Marie Emile Lacan: Curriculum Vitae 1901-81”, in Lacan in Contexts, David Macey, Verso, 1988, pp 210-255.

Ø Dec 07 (Sunday) 2-6 pm

Session 2: Sigmund Freud: The Archaeology of the Unconscious

Screening: (1) Sigmund Freud: The Archaeology of the Unconscious. This film would help us get a grip of the problems Freud had encountered in his medical career; it would also help us see why a medical doctor flirting with questions related to the neurological, moves after the aphasia book to questions relating to the ‘logic of the mind’, a logic menaced by the restlessness of the illogical; it would also show how Freud’s ‘method’ differs fundamentally from other epistemo-affective intersubjective encounters.

Readings: (1) Lear, J. 2005. Freud - New York and London: Routledge.

Ø Dec 13 (Saturday) 2-6 pm

Session 3: Lacan and his Return to Freud – I – Readings: (1) Lear, J. 2005. Freud - New York and London: Routledge.

Ø Jan 18 (Sunday) 10-5 pm

Session 4: Lacan and his Return to Freud – II

Readings: (1) Lear, J. 1998. Open Minded: Working Out the Logic of the Soul, pp. 1-55 – Harvard University Press, containing three chapters – (a) Preface: The King and I, (b) On Killing Freud (again) and (c) Knowingness and Abandonment: An Oedipus of Our time.

(We would like to supplement this session with the audio recording of an interview of Ashish Nandy taken on the 23rd and the 24th of June, 2008.)

Session 5: The Uncanny of Subjectivity

Screening of Luis Bunuel’s Un Chien Andalou [1928]

Calvino, I. 1983. “Reading a Wave” in Mr. Palomar, pp. 1-3.

Kafka, F. 1916. Metamorphosis, pp. 11-52.

Flax, J. 1993. “Multiples: On the Contemporary Politics of Subjectivity” in Disputed Subjects: Essays on Psychoanalysis, Politics and Philosophy, pp. 92-110 – New York and London: Routledge.

Session 6: Freudian Understanding of Subjectivity

Freud, S. 1925. “A Note on the Mystic Writing Pad” in General Psychological Theory, Chapter XIII, pp. 207-212.

Lear, J. 1998. “Restlessness, Phantasy, and the Concept of Mind” in Open Minded: Working out the Logic of the Soul, pp. 80-122. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Ø Feb 08 (Sunday) 10-5 pm

Session 7: Lacanian Understanding of Subjectivity

Lacan, J. 2006. “The Subversion of the Subject and the Dialectic of Desire in the Freudian Unconscious” in Ecrits (trans. Bruce Fink), pp. 671-702 – New York, London: W. W. Norton and Company.

Session 8: Imaginary

Readings: “From the Imaginary to the Symbolic”, in Jacques Lacan, Jonathan Scott Lee, The University of Massachusetts Press, 1991, pp 31-71.

Ø Feb 22 (Sunday) 10-5 pm

Session 9: Symbolic

Readings: “From the Symbolic to the Real”, in Jacques Lacan, Jonathan Scott Lee, The University of Massachusetts Press, 1991, pp 72-99.

Session 10: Real as Rem(a)inder

Readings: “The Impossible Real”, in Jacques Lacan, Jonathan Scott Lee, The University of Massachusetts Press, 1991, pp 133-170.

Ø March 01 (Sunday) 10-5 pm

Session 11: Lacan and Language

Readings: “The Psychoanalyst as Textual Analyst”, in Jacques Lacan, Jonathan Scott Lee, The University of Massachusetts Press, 1991, pp 100-132.

Session 12: Lacan and the Clinic

Ø March 08 (Sunday) 10-5 pm

Session 13: Lacan “On the Limits of Knowledge”

Session 14: Lacan “On the Limits of Love”: There is no such thing as a Sexual Relationship

Venue: Dept of PG Psychology, Main Blk, I Flr.

For any clarification please contact Mr. Diptarup Chowdhury, Course Co-ordinator, Dept of PG Psychology at / Cell-9886289844, or meet him personally anytime from 4 to5 pm at the dept.

Psychology After Lacan - Programme Annoucement

Department of Post Graduate Psychology, Christ University


One Semester Credit-based Certificate Course

Psychology after Lacan

Co-Instructors: Diptarup Chowdhury & Anup K Dhar

Visiting Faculty: Ashish Rajadhyaksha, Asha Achuthan, Radhika P., Ranjita Biswas

Classes: On Sundays.

Course Introduction:

Starting from a general introduction on Jacques Lacan, this course would go into the depths of Lacanian psychoanalysis. It would discuss the Borromean Knot of the Imaginary-Symbolic-Real. It would also see how Lacanian psychoanalysis differs from existing schools of psychology. It would ask: what happens to received understandings of schools of psychology, if one imparts to them the 'Lacanian Turn'. Does psychology get fundamentally displaced by the 'Lacanian Turn'? The course would also see how Lacanian psychoanalysis would be relevant to the social sciences and to humanities. It would also discuss the 'science question' in the context of Lacanain psychoanalysis; as also questions of objectivity and subjectivity in the sciences. This course would be relevant to science, social science and humanities students.

Certificate Course Outline:

Lacan: Life and works; Sigmund Freud: The Archaeology of the Unconscious; Lacan and his Return to Freud – I ; Lacan and his Return to Freud – II ; The Uncanny of Subjectivity; Freudian Understanding of Subjectivity; Lacanian Understanding of Subjectivity; Imaginary; Symbolic; Real as Rem(a)inder ; Lacan and Language; Lacan and the Clinic; Lacan “On the Limits of Knowledge”; Lacan “On the Limits of Love”: There's No Such Thing as a Sexual Relationship!!!; Turning Away from Lacan.

For further details, contact course co-ordinator Diptarup Chowdhury at