Psychosocial studies with psychoanalysis

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Stephen FroshDepartment of Psychosocial Studies, Birkbeck, University of London, UK

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Psychosocial studies is methodologically and theoretically diverse, drawing on a wide range of intellectual resources. However, psychoanalysis has often taken a privileged position within this diversity, because of its well-developed conceptual vocabulary that can be put to use to theorise the psychosocial subject. Its practices have become a model for some aspects of psychosocial work, especially in relation to its focus on intense study of individuals, its explicit engagement with ethical relations, and its traversing of disciplinary boundaries across the arts, humanities and social sciences.

This article begins with a brief description of some principles of psychosocial thinking, including its transdisciplinarity and criticality and its interest in ethics and in reflexivity. It then explores the place of psychoanalysis in this genealogy, presenting the case for psychoanalysis’ continuing contribution to the development of psychosocial studies. It is argued that this case is a strong one, but that the critique of psychoanalysis from the discursive, postcolonial, feminist and queer perspectives that are also found in psychosocial studies is important. The claim will be made that the engagement between psychoanalysis and its psychosocial critics is fundamentally productive. Even though it generates real tensions, these tensions are necessary and significant, reflecting genuine struggles over how best to understand the socially constructed human subject.

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Stephen FroshDepartment of Psychosocial Studies, Birkbeck, University of London, UK

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