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(2012) Re(con)figuring psychoanalysis, Dordrecht, Springer.

The re-enactment of denial

Stephen Frosh

pp. 60-75

In 2007, the International Psychoanalytic Association (IPA) held its biennial Congress in Berlin. Germany had been the site for several such Congresses in the early history of psychoanalysis and the previous Berlin Congress was the last one attended in person by Freud. However, since World War II and the shift of psychoanalysis' "mother-tongue' from German to English, only one previous Congress had been held in Germany. This was the Hamburg Congress of 1985, devoted to the topic of "Identification and its Vicissitudes' and fraught with the tensions of a return to the site of desolation not only of psychoanalysis, but of course also of European Jewry, to which the overwhelming majority of pre-war psychoanalysts had belonged. The complexity and intensity of the emotional situation of Hamburg was such that it was always likely to be the case that the Congress would be a disappointment, and this is basically how things turned out — though the actual terms of this disappointment repay careful consideration and have been the subject of much subsequent reminiscence, scholarship and speculation (Freedman, 1988; Frosh, 2005; Moses and Hrushovski-Moses, 1986). The 2007 Berlin Congress, a generation later, took as its theme "Remembering, Repeating, and Working Through' and was explicitly set up to examine some of the issues that lingered from the Hamburg Congress — issues of coming-to-terms, of laying-to-rest, of moving on, if one can translate the title into its underlying wishful fantasy. This Congress seems to have received positive reviews throughout the psychoanalytic world, at least as evident in the materials published so far; yet there is evidence even in these public materials of a continuing uncertainty or even reprise, a repressed, perhaps, and a threatening return. Not surprisingly, this lingering sorrow is connected with issues of culpability and accommodation with Nazism, of the ethics of psychoanalysis and its integrity, and of the denial and even betrayal of history. It may also testify to the actual, empirical difficulty of converting the wish for reparation — for dealing with hurt and destructiveness — into actual reparative acts; that is, one tendency that is traced in the material to be presented here is for these Congresses to act as if past trauma has been dealt with, without anything actually changing or being "worked through'. The sense of something not dealt with is also, however, reflective of a much more specific dynamic that was once core to psychoanalysis and may still be so, if the evidence of the Congress can be taken seriously: the relationship of psychoanalysis to its own Jewish origins, to its treatment of its Jewish membership, and to the existence of anti-Semitism in its own institutional body.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1057/9780230373303_4

Full citation:

Frosh, S. (2012)., The re-enactment of denial, in A. Gülerce (ed.), Re(con)figuring psychoanalysis, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 60-75.

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