Reanimating the plague

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  • 1 Birkbeck, University of London, , UK
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The idea of ‘plague’ has returned to public consciousness with the arrival of COVID-19. An anachronistic and extremely problematic concept for thinking about biopolitical catastrophe, plague nevertheless offers an enormous historical range and a potentially highly generative metaphorical framework for psychosocial studies to engage with, for example, through Albert Camus’ () The Plague and Sophocles’ () Oedipus The King. It is, moreover, a word that is likely to remain firmly within the remit of public consciousness as we move further into the Anthropocene, to face further pandemics and the spectre of antibiotic resistance. A return to plague also opens up the question of a return to psychoanalysis, which Freud is often cited as having described as a ‘plague’. Psychoanalysis is, like plague, a troubling and problematic discourse for psychosocial studies, but, like plague, it may also help us to work through the disorders and dis-eases of COVID times. In fact, if the recent pandemic has reanimated the notion of plague, the plague metaphor may in turn help to reanimate psychoanalysis, and in this article we suggest some of the analogical, even genealogical, resonances of such an implication.

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