The intent of Geographies of Psychoanalysis podcast is to draw a map of the psyche that takes into account the interconnections and differences that occur in a now globalized reality. Image: William Kentridge, North Pole Map, 2003
#3 Gohar Homayounpour - Persian Blues
Upon any discussion on the elaboration of “death” in Iran, one inevitably comes face to face with the often argued and examined notion that Iranians symptomatically suffer within a culture that is obsessed with the celebration of death, nostalgia and mourning. Many interdisciplinary scholars in recent decades have examined and provided data which proves such tendencies and their disastrous consequences for Iranians. Here, Gohar Homayounpour attempts to delve deeper into the various palettes of the “Persian Blues”, in the name of integration and a continuous re-examination of our comfortably established notions, she attempts to add a but, referring to the various derivatives of Eros’s footsteps upon the Persepolis of Persia, dreaming that this but might become a possibility for “linking”, a sense of orientation, inspiration, out of these particularly destructive and melancholic aspects of the Iranian culture, orienting us towards a voyage from melancholia to mourning.
Dr. Gohar. Homayounpour is an author and psychoanalyst and member of the International Psychoanalytic Society, American Psychoanalytic Association, the Italian Psychoanalytic Society and the National Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis. She is the Training and Supervising psychoanalyst of the Freudian Group of Tehran, where she is also founder and former director.
Homayounpour has published various psychoanalytic articles, including in the International and Canadian Journals of Psychoanalysis. Her book, Doing Psychoanalysis in Tehran, published by MIT Press in August 2012, won the Gradiva award and has been translated into many languages.
Homayounpour is a member of the scientific board at the Freud Museum in Vienna and a board member of the IPA group Geographies of psychoanalysis.
The first thing that comes to mind when one is asked to elaborate on “death” in my geography is the often discussed and examined notion that Iranians symptomatically suffer within a culture that is obsessed with the celebration of death, nostalgia and mourning. Many scholars in recent decades have examined and provided data which proves such tendencies and their disastrous consequences for Iranians.
I have also written about this exact notion in my book Doing Psychoanalysis in Tehran, with reference to our famous myth, “Rustam and Sohrab”, from Ferdousi’s Book of Kings (Shahnameh, the most celebrated Iranian source of mythology), which has a storyline quite similar to that of Oedipus Rex, the main difference being that it is the father who unknowingly kills his son in the end. My extensive research shows that Greek mythologies appear to be populated with myths about the actual killing of fathers, while it is impossible to escape the common patterns of killing sons right across Iranian mythology. The wish to kill each other between fathers and sons is common across both mythologies, but who actually gets killed at the end and who gets rescued and is granted the right to life, is where the culturally specific element can be observed across these mythologies.
I am convinced of the universality of the Oedipus complex, and the struggle for power and control it represents while embodying within it the universal fear of castration; the culturally specific element seems to be the reaction to this fear. My premise is that the Iranian collective fantasy is anchored in an anxiety of disobedience that wishes for an absolute obedience. The son desiring to rebel knows unconsciously that if he does so he might be killed, and so, in a way, he settles for the fear of castration.
Is this not also seen in the differences between Catholicism and Islam? Islam means submission and demands absolute obedience to God the father, while in Christianity the demarcation between God the father and Christ the son is not quite as clear. This is clearly a very co
#2 Rubén Gallo - Death and Dying in Mexico
Rubén Gallo is a writer, the author of Freud in Mexico: Into the Wilds of Psychoanalysis (MIT Press, 2010), and a professor at Princeton University. In this podcast, he explores the meaning in death in Mexico, from the well-known images of joyful skeletons painted by artists like Diego Rivera, to the more somber political and social manifestations of deadly impulses in contemporary society, including drug-related violence.
I am Rubén Gallo, a writer and academic, and today I would like to share with you some reflections on the culture of death in Mexico. Without a doubt you have read and heard about the special place death has in Mexican culture. You might have seen photographs or paintings of the Day of the Dead, when families visit their deceased relatives in the cemetery to bring them food, thus transform mourning into a festive occasion. And you are probably familiar with the many joyful depictions of skeletons, skulls, and other symbols of death, in the paintings of Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, and other Mexican artists. In popular music, such as ranchero songs from the north, singers cheerfully announce that they are not afraid of death, and if they die, it should happen while they are drinking and dancing.
But, as I would like to suggest today, beneath this appearance of a unique and joyful approach to death, there lies a darker reality, one that is closer in spirit to traditional accounts of death. Octavio Paz, one of Mexico’s greatest poets, made a similar argument in his essay The Labyrinth of Solitude, published in 1950. Paz argued that many of the images associated with Mexico —the celebration of life, the passion for fiestas with music and dance, the raucous drinking —conceal a more complex psychology. Mexicans, he argued, are melancholic beings, and these outwards explosions of joy are attempts to cover-up an unresolved mourning emerging froma series of historical traumas that hark back to the conquest of Mexico and to the violent encounter that ended with the destruction of the Aztec civilization.
Paz, who was a passionate reader of Freud in his youth, believed that these unresolved historical traumas resulted in a repetition compulsion that can be observed in many of the most famous Mexican rituals: bright celebrations full of music, song, and dance can easily degenerate into fistfights leaving revelers dead; and, in one of his most poetic images, Paz draws attention to how at every fiesta, there comes a point when the life of the party, he who has been drinking and eating and singing, inevitably plunges into an explicable melancholia, an irrational feeling of solitude. The singing gives way to a taciturn state for which the Spanish language has a beautiful word: ensimismamiento, becoming trapped in oneself.
Paz believed that the nation’s unresolved traumas led to a repetition of scenes of violence, which can be seen at various points in Mexican history. After the 1968 student massacre, a dark day in which the Mexican president, Gustavo Díaz Ordaz, ordered the army to shoot on peaceful student demonstration, and left dozens of young men and women dead, Paz read this event — which was one of the bloodiest in the twentieth century — as a repetition of something that had occurred before. He noted that the massacre took place steps from an Aztec pyramid, one of the few remaining structures of a city that was once called Tlatelolco and which is now part of Mexico City. This was not a coincidence: the Aztecs used pyramids as temples for human sacrifices and, five hundred years after the conquest, the student massacre was another form of sacrifice.
México: Olimpiada de 1968
A Dore y Adja Junkers
(quizá valga la pena
escribirlo sobre la limpieza
de esta hoja)
no es límpida:
es una rabia
#1 Sudhir Kakar - Death in India
Death, its fear and the efforts of human imagination to address the fear is a universal that has been addressed differently by different civilizations at different times of history. In modern scientific West, the cultural home of psychoanalysis, death is not only the end of body but of all consciousness. Its terror is a separation from everything we know, love and are attached to. But what happens when the cultural imagination, such as that of the Indic civilization, envisages death as a form of union as much as it is also a moment of separation?
Sudhir Kakar is an Indian psychoanalyst and writer. He has been a Lecturer and Visiting Professor at Harvard University, Visiting Professor at the universities of Chicago, McGill, Melbourne, Hawaii, Fellow at the Institutes of Advanced Study, Princeton, Berlin and Cologne and is on the Board of Freud Archives. His many honors include the Kardiner Award of Columbia University, Boyer Prize for Psychological Anthropology of the American Anthropological Association, Germany’s Goethe Medal, McArthur Research Fellowship, and Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.
Kakar is the author of fourteen books of non-fiction and six novels. His books have been translated into 22 languages.
"As an Indian born Freudian analyst I live a professional life that is peculiarly bi-cultural. I was born and raised in India but my education has been in the cultural home of psychoanalysis, the post-enlightenment West. Non-western analysts like me are not heirs to the Judeo-Christian civilizations, but we practice in enclaves of Western modernity in our civilizations that have similarities to the small subset of the human population that the Harvard psychologist Joseph Heinrich and his colleagues in an influential article in 2010 called WEIRD.
The acronym WEIRD stands for western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic. The WEIRD are a small group of statistical outliers who are generally non-religious, and share traits such as being individualistic, believers in free will and personal responsibility. As Heinrich tells us in his recent book “The Weirdest People in the World” the WEIRD are the primary producers and consumers of psychological knowledge.
For non-western analysts whose origins are less weird, their professional socialization as analysts is often in conflict with their cultural upbringing; The cultural part of their unconscious then sometimes rubs against fundamental ideas about the fulfilled life, human relationships, family, marriage, male and female (and others) which psychoanalysis regards as universally valid but which are essentially cultural constructions.
Human universals do exist but they are parsed differently by different civilisations at different points of time, sometimes coinciding and at others deviating significantly from each other. Death, its fear and the efforts of human imagination to address that fear is one such universal.
We are all familiar with Freud’s observation in his Thoughts for the Times on War and Death on the incapability of humans to imagine their own death.
‘It is indeed impossible to imagine our own death: and whenever we attempt to do so we can perceive that we are in fact still present as spectators. Hence the psychoanalytic school could venture on the assertion that at bottom no one believes in his own death, or, to put the same thing in another way, that in his unconscious, every one of us is convinced of his own immortality. (Freud 1915/2001, p. 289)
We are less familiar with similar sentiments voiced in other cultures. In 7th century Syria, the Sufi saint Uwais al-Qarani is asked,
‘What has Grace brought you?’
‘When I wake up in the morning I feel like a man who is not sure he will live till evening,’ Uwais replied.
‘But doesn’t everyone know this?’
‘They certainly do,’ Uwais said.