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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

1999, Vol. 2 No. 2 .

The Psychoanalysis of Race
Edited by Christopher Lane

(New York: Columbia University Press, 1998)
445pp. Index. Hb.: ISBN 0-231-10946-6. Pb.: ISBN 0-231-10947-4.

A somewhat biased summary statement: this edited Volume of 18 articles consists mostly of discussions about critics who unfairly criticise critics and novelists. However, there is much of interest here. The majority of pieces are by university English teachers with a smattering of philosophers (Jacques Derrida) and social scientists. These are scholars well read in Freud, Jacques Lacan and Fritz Fanon. They are also, naturally, creatures of deconstruction.

In his introduction, Lane states, "by highlighting racism's irrational forms, this collection demonstrates that prejudice can coexist with the greatest support for ethnic and cultural diversity." (p 2); He has selected authors well versed in the literature, mostly novels; (e.g., E.M. Forster, Conrad), surrounding colonialism and post-colonialism; But there is also an immense variety here. From Amit S. Rai's analytical discussion of a popular Hindi film from 1967, Raat aur Din, to Derrida's analysis of what may underlie the word choices in the International Psychoanalytical Association's Constitution of 1977, to Jacqueline Rose's critique of Wulf Sach's Black Hamlet, a non-fiction work by a Jewish psychoanalyst in S. Africa who befriended a native diviner who failed in an attempt to murder his wife ..... there is enormous breadth with much fine detail in the volumes' 423 pages.

The book may have you running frequently to the dictionary if, like me, you are fuzzy about words like joissance and alterity. It's all arranged in three sections: I. Current Dilemmas: Psychoanalysis and Post colonialism; II. History and the Origins of Racism; III. Psychoanalysis and Race: an Uncertain Conjunction. There are more conjunctions here than I have ever encountered before. I suspect almost everyone will find something new and challenging here and want to follow up with the help of the extensive bibliographies. For me, the best chapter was the last, Bonding over Phobia, by David Marriott. As a black, he delves deeply and convincingly into the complex morass of unconscious defense mechanisms and phobias that underlie "normal" relationships between blacks and whites.

David Wolsk,
Victoria, B.C. Canada

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