Monday, October 3, 2011

“Psychoanalysis and Our Time” in our time


    "Nobody interprets psychoanalysis today according to the canons that prevailed previously." J.-A. Miller, course of 26 March 2008

New York City, 20 days after the ceremonies in commemoration of September 11th 2001, which opened the century.

It is raining hard, but nothing like the devastating storms of the previous month. The rain is followed by luminous opening in the clouds or by a gray, dirty light, depending on the mood of the Indian summer. Standing in the immigrations line (for two hours) is enough to be plunged into the American discourse. On CNN, Michael Jackson's doctor's trial was playing on a loop. Did the doctor kill him when anesthetizing him? Then, the question-answer exchange filmed in half-length, with a camera that scrutinizes decline, anxiety. The half-length shot, the American shot, has never deserved its name so much. This is not the reprisal of the Renaissance portrait on a guardrail, but the representation of the subject in a democratic courtroom. The other side of the news is that of the warfront against terrorism. The effectiveness of the Obama administration's choice of targeted assassination, by means of drones or special teams, or a combination of both, proves formidable. It doesn't fail to spur new terrorist inventions. In two days' time, we would learn, on the one hand, that Anwar al-Awlaki, a preacher in Yemen, calling for murder after the Friday prayer, was killed by a drone in a joint CIA and army operation. On the other hand, we would learn of the preventive arrest of an Asian American, a Physics graduate at Northeastern University, who wanted to use radio-guided small-scale airplane models, with a two-meter span, to strike the Pentagon. The poor man's drone, so to speak.

There are many legal issues posed by the assassinations of American citizens by their own government. The Fifth Amendment states that nobody can be deprived of their life, freedom or property without a fair trial when the USA is not at war. We are not in France, where judges accuse each other of complicity with the executive. Here the legal fiction is taken seriously. The interpretation of the words of the dead father, the Founding Fathers, remains the master signifier. There is no legal void. The Bush administration tried to justify the unjustifiable – torture – by means of a great fanfare of ad hoc legal arguments. The Obama administration is very careful not to be quite as ridiculous. Nonetheless, America lives in a strange state of emergency, as Mark Danner says in the latest issue of the New York Review of Books. After the Patriot Act, the state of law is subtly bent. War o no war the question is posited: how long will this parenthesis last? Will the gates of the temple of war never be shut? Beyond the closing of Guantánamo, which the Administration has given up on, this is the real question that haunts America. Here everything is politics, including economics. Nobody thinks about a "politics of things". Oppositions are radical and taken to absurd limits within the opposing party.

For two weeks now, New York has been shaken by a mystery. Its name is "The Wall Street Protesters": a bizarre group of between 300 and 1000 people, ranging from the middle class to the unemployed, these profoundly American dropouts occupy the downtown area and disturb traffic. There were 2000 of them on Friday evening. Nobody understands exactly what they seek. This is the American version of something similar to the European indignés, the indignados.

The title of the opening lecture in the seminar was "Psychoanalysis and Our Time". There was much to talk about. The Rafah case has shown a symptom that is revealing of the function of psychoanalysis in modernity, its inscription as a social force, as seen in this tragic case. I was told that the young researchers in the room were "fired up" by the feeling that, thanks to psychoanalysis, they could talk about what is unbearable about modernity.

The seriousness with which NYC celebrates Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and prepares Yom Kippur didn't prevent us from having 140 participants in Pulse. In the opening of the Seminar, JAM's appeal was read out by Adrian Price, who translated it into English. We obtained the signature of a Barnard College professor, Maire Jaanus, one of the Pulse co-organizers. Through her, we delivered the petition to Debora Spar, the new Barnard President, who wishes for the College to maintain its specificity as a women's college. She is counting on a new generation of women for whom existence is a choice of career, but also of gender and education. She is an expert in South Africa, but will no doubt be sensitive to Rafah's fate.

The Seminar itself, the Pulse, organized with Josefina, the editor of Lacanian Ink, Marie-Hélène Brousse, and Pierre-Gilles Guéguen, attracted a large audience, mostly American. People spoke up, and there were many questions, frequent networking, and constant networking in the coffee or water breaks. They quickly understood that the real "Life of Lacan" was that written by Jacques-Alain Miller.

The main topic – Lacan's Legacy – was not presented as a dead one. It is extremely alive, an object of scandal and controversy, always to be deciphered in his teaching. The participants spoke about various issues: Psychoanalysis and the Norm , Femininity Beyond the Oedipus Complex, The Hypermodern Family, Male Homosexualities, The Real as Lawless, Psychoanalysis and Neurosciences, The Psychoanalyst as Analysand. The speakers were first-rank members of the Lacanian Compass au premier rang. María Cristina Aguirre, Tom Svolos, Alicia Arenas, of course, but also the English-speaking accomplices, Adrian Price, Alan Rowan, Francois Sauvagnat, Jean-Pierre Klotz, Natalie Wulfing, Kjell Solemn. We did not seek a consensus or the habits of analytic discourse regarding these topics, whatever the postmodern diversity of the university discourse inspired by psychoanalysis may be in the USA. The originality of our approach is to bring together Culture and Clinic, the title of a forthcoming journal. The Pulse had the chance to make public the news that arrived the day before: the Minnesota University Press has agreed to become the editorial base for the project after a long and difficult process. Maire Jaanus and Marie-Hélène Brousse made this announcement live during the drinks after the first day.

That evening, we all met at Josefina's home, where she had all the means to send the news to LQ through various media. María Cristina Aguirre typed on an American keyboard what I was dictating to her in French.

After the end of the Pulse, there were informal discussions with analytic institutions linked to the IPA. New York is the place of the "multi" and diversity, as Mayor Bloomberg, highly fluent on the topic of so-called illegal immigration, pointed out: "all those who come here come to work". We will work through analytically.

All the best to LQ from New York,

Éric Laurent

    The Paris US Lacan Seminar in New York Sunday Oct 2 - 10 AM to 1:30 AM

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