The central concern of this book is to explore what happens to concepts when they are deployed in contrasting contexts and used in the analysis of new objects of study. More specifically, the book explores the way psychoanalytic concepts are used within empirical social scientific research. The broad, underlying argument, or perhaps presumption, of the book is that concepts are necessarily reiterated and transformed in the process of research and analysis. We can either try to police the use of established terminologies, or else we can explore the transformations brought about in new instantiations of old concepts.
My preference is for the second of these alternatives. Rather than arguing for or against the use of psychoanalytic concepts within social research, this book is an attempt to look closely at the ways in which different aspects of psychoanalytic ideas are repeated and transformed when they are articulated in the context of social theory and research. Each chapter traces the instantiation of one concept in instances of both psychoanalytic and social scientific analysis.
The book aims to develop a picture of concepts as constituted in a cluster of ideas that are connected in chains of meaning, but that tug in different directions, with some chains well established and some threads hanging loose, waiting to be extended, or knotted into a relation with threads from elsewhere in the tangle of conceptual frameworks and ideas.
The use of psychoanalytic ideas to construct new ways of understanding social and political questions is, clearly, not new. Freud began this work himself, and social and political theory has consistently drawn on his ideas. This makes perfect sense to me. Social and political theory must find ways to conceptualize the relation between human subjects and our social environment; and the distinctive and intense observation of individual psychical structuring afforded within clinical psychoanalysis has given rise to rich theoretical and methodological resources for doing just this…
Introduction: reframing psychoanalytic concepts, or bricolage decomposed
1 Melancholia: lost objects of national, ethnic, classed, gendered and scxual identities
2 Overdetermination: the conceptualization of dreams and discourse
3 Textures of resistance: ‘discourse’ and ‘psyche’ and ‘the compulsion to repeat’
4 Signifying chains in academic practice: the appearance and disappearance of affect, politics and methodology
5 From psychic defences to social defences: recontextualizing strategies and Klein’s theory of ego development
Conclusion: troubling attachments
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