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Psychoanalysis and Racism: The Vestigial Pleasures of American Slavery

September 23 @ 1:00 pm 3:00 pm

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This event is hybrid format and will be offered on Zoom as well as in-person at the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis, 1581 Beacon St., Brookline, MA.

Part of BGSP’s Department of Continuing Education Events’ Fall 2023 speaker series, Psychoanalytic Perspectives on Race, Racism and Culture
Series Coordinator:  Allen Chukwuhdi

2 Continuing Ed units/clock hours are available for this event.

Presenter: Sheldon George, PhD 

Discussant: Sadeq Rahimi, PhD 

Our political and social moment seems destabilized by an increased emphasis on racial difference. But psychoanalysis has long ignored the stabilizing role aggression toward racial others has played in structuring society. Decades after American slavery ended, Freud, upon witnessing the horrors of World War I, first recognized within human subjects a drive toward aggression that he argued must be repressed for the sustainability of civilization. This talk reads slavery as a full manifestation of this psychic drive toward aggression. Through recourse to Lacanian theory, it argues that race functions as a source of psychic pleasure, or what Lacan calls jouissance. This jouissance is a mode of enjoyment that lures the subject to perilous transgressions that stabilize American society into its consistently oppressive racial configuration. Moving through an analysis of American slave masters’ efforts to establish slavery as a mask for what we can describe after Lacan as the psychic lack of the subject—a mask that refuted lack with racial superiority—the talk will turn to the writings of Zora Neale Hurston to describe religion and race as mechanisms through which African Americans themselves contend against social unveilings of psychic lack. Ending with a discussion of the role played by pleasure in contemporary incidents of police violence, the talk presents race as an apparatus that mediates subjective lack. Race, it argues, binds contemporary American civilization to sustained modes of psychic pleasure and discontent that grew out of the atrocity of slavery. 

Sheldon George, PhD is Chairman of the Department of Literature and Writing at Simmons University in Boston, MA. His scholarship centers on application of cultural and literary theory to analyses of American and African American literature and culture. Dr. George is chairman of the Executive Committee of the MLA Forum Psychology, Psychoanalysis and Literature. He is an associate editor of Psychoanalysis, Culture and Society and has coedited two special issues of that journal: “Lacanian Psychoanalysis: Interventions into Culture and Politics” and “African Americans and Inequality.” His book, Trauma and Race, (2016), is the first to offer an extended Lacanian analysis of African American identity. Dr. George is coeditor of Reading Contemporary Black British and African American Women Writers; and his recent publications include the pioneering collection of essays, Lacan, and Race: Racism, Identity and Psychoanalytic Theory.  


Participants will be able to:

  1.  Develop a working understanding of Freud’s notion of the drive and Lacan’s concept of jouissance. 
  2.  Conceptualize the function of the drive and jouissance in some contemporary cultural moments of racial violence. 
  3.  Critically consider some moral questions about the value of racial identity and the significance of American slavery and psychic aggression to contemporary moments of violence. 

General admission: $40

BGSP/NSGP/CMPS Community Members: $25.00

Students: free

Questions? email continuinged@bgsp.edu or call (617) 277 – 3915

Sign up for this event here!

BGSP is authorized to provide CEs for:  Psychologists (all levels), Social Workers, Counselors 

Full refund available if you cancel one week prior to the event. If you have any questions, email info@bgsp.edu.

Offering CEs for:  Psychologists (all levels), Social Workers, Mental Health Counselors

Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. BGSP maintains responsibility for this program and its content.

Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis has been approved by NBCC as an Approved Continuing Education Provider, ACEP No. 5676. Programs that do not qualify for NBCC credit are clearly identified. Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis is solely responsible for all aspects of the programs.

Application for social work continuing education credits is being submitted. Please contact us at ContinuingEd@BGSP.edu for the status of social work CE accreditation.

For information on continuing education credits for nurses, social workers, or marriage and family counseling, call 617-277-3915.

Direct inquiries may be made regarding the accreditation status by NECHE to the administrative staff of the institution. Individuals may also contact: New England Commission on Higher Education, 3 Burlington Woods Drive, Ste 100, Burlington, MA 01803-4514, 781-425-7785 or email: info@neche.org

The Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis is accredited by the New England Commission on Higher Education. 

Direct inquiries may be made regarding the accreditation status by NECHE to the administrative staff of the institution. Individuals may also contact: New England Commission on Higher Education, 3 Burlington Woods Drive, Ste 100, Burlingto



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