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psychoanalytic theory, geography and

  Psychoanalysis is a theory and a therapy of human subjectivity developed and modified by Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) and later writers and practitioners. Working mostly with middle-class patients, often women, Freud was concerned with the fraught processes through which children separate from their caregivers to become relatively autonomous subjects, and with the complicated legacies of that process for their subsequent senses of body, self, other and self-Other relations. Geographers have been particularly concerned with the spatialities of these dynamics (Rose, 1995; Sibley, 1995; Blum and Nast, 1996; Pile, 1996; Aitken and Herman, 1997).

Freud assumes that all humans begin life in an undifferentiated relationship with their mother. He locates the break from the mother and the beginning of subjecthood with the intervention of the father. (Heterosexual) masculinity is constituted by the boy-child feeling threatened by the father with castration if he does not give up his closeness to the mother (a threat made effective by the sight of the mother\'s genitalia as apparently lacking); (heterosexual) femininity, in ways less convincingly theorized by Freud, is produced by girl-children seeing themselves as lacking and transferring their attachment from the mother to the father. This process — the castration crisis or Oedipus complex — represses the child\'s profound drives and desires and thus produces the unconscious. The unconscious is not accessible to the subject but its dynamics persistently intervene in more conscious dreams, thoughts, speech and practices. Already, then, psychoanalysis offers a very different notion of subjectivity from that of behavioural geography and from geographers\' accounts of human agency. Subjectivity here is in part unknowing and unknowable, always unstable and relational (Pile, 1992); it is also always gendered and sexualized. These points have been utilized in relation to qualitative methods in geography, with discussion focusing on the complexity and partial unknowability of relations between and among researcher and researched (Burgess, Limb and Harrison, 1988a, 1988b; Pile, 1991; Rose, 1997).

The subsequent developments in psychoanalytic theory used by geographers have been diverse. They include the work of Jacques Lacan for whom the intervention of the father is also the intervention of the cultural (what Lacan called the Symbolic); it is the moment when signs and symbols (mostly) replace the pre-Symbolic (or the Real, in Lacan\'s terminology). Lacan argues that this substitution is always felt as such and that there is therefore always a sense of loss, of lack, of uncertainty, in human subjectivity. Lacan also insisted on the importance of the \'mirror stage\' to a child\'s sense of self, which is the moment when a child recognizes an image in a mirror as a coherent and bounded self which can comprehend Others. In contrast, the work of Melanie Klein depends less than Lacan or Freud on the father and more on the child\'s own agency in establishing the difference between its self and Others, while Julia Kristeva\'s notion of abjection examines the construction of Others both as intensely, somatically repulsive and as necessary to the subject. Finally, there is Donald Winnicott\'s emphasis on a more fluid and recursive relation between self and Others, articulated through what he termed a \'transitional space\' in which clear boundaries between self and Other can be blurred.

Utilizing any of these psychoanalytic positions in the social sciences is complicated and controversial (Craib, 1990; Elliott, 1992). Psychoanalysis has been accused of essentializing anatomical difference, of universalizing from a very specific social and cultural location (the bourgeois, European, white, nuclear family), and of naturalizing gendered difference and heterosexuality. Not surprisingly then, Sibley (1995) argues strongly that psychically charged articulations of difference can only be understood through the particularities of their social and cultural contexts. Given this caveat, however, several geographers have drawn on psychoanalytic arguments as means of exploring both the geographies of subjectivities and the subjectivity of geography as a discipline.

Sibley\'s (1995) aim in drawing on the work of Klein and Kristeva, among others, is to understand the geographies of the exclusion of marginalized groups. He insists that there are psychic as well as social and cultural processes at work in these acts of exclusion, and argues that the dominant western sense of a \'purified\' self depends on a range of historically variable and culturally mediated stereotypes of Others. He traces both the placing of those Others into spaces separate and distinct from dominant social groups and the ambiguity and instability of their borders, which he describes as liminal, abject zones of intense anxiety and even violence (see also O\'Tuathail, 1994; Pile, 1996). Sibley is therefore rather sceptical about claims that the contemporary world is now dominated by processes of boundary-displacing hybridity. Aitken and Herman (1997), on the other hand, use Winnicott\'s work to suggest that transitional space may allow a more positive relation between self and Others. A child\'s play produces transitional space, in which dominant social and cultural values may be reiterated but also in which a child may develop new understandings of the relation between the self and the environment. Despite their important differences, psychoanalytic arguments produce for these geographers a similar sense of space and place as very complex: as contradictory, multiple, and always becoming.

Feminist revisions of psychoanalysis have also been deployed in some feminist geographies to initiate a critique of the phallocentrism of academic geography. Bondi (1997) and Rose (1993, 1995, 1996) argue that such phallocentrism is deeply embedded in the structures of its knowledge. Deutsche (1991) and Rose (1993, 1995) have both utilized Mulvey\'s (1989) feminist reworking of Lacan\'s mirror-stage in order to understand why masculinist geography has so much difficulty in seeing the world as radically different from its self. Mulvey re-describes the image seen during the mirror-stage as a mirage of an autonomous, mastering and masculine self; the geographer perceiving the world through its dynamics can thus see the world only as a reflection of his self or as his Other (see also Sparke, 1994). But Lacan\'s insistence on the lack structuring all subjectivity has also been drawn on by Bondi (1997) and Rose (1993, 1995) to argue for the persistent possibility of critique and change. As Bondi (1997, p. 254) notes, no-one is immune from the uncertainties of subjectivity.

This last point explains why, despite its dangers, psychoanalytic theory is being used by some geographers as a critical tool to reinterpret and reconfigure different kinds of geographies. For it demands that interpretation seeks fracture, uncertainty and partiality, and admits to these things as part of its self; \'it is the differences within these ostensibly self-identical edifices that offer maps as to where we might find difference without them\' (Blum and Nast, 1996, p. 579). (GR)

References Aitken, S.C. and Herman, T. 1997: Gender, power and crib geography: transitional spaces and potential places. Gender, Place and Culture 4: 63-88. Blum, V. and Nast, H. 1996: Where\'s the difference? The heterosexualization of alterity in Henri Lefebvre and Jacques Lacan. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 14: 559-80. Bondi, L. 1997: In whose words? On gender identities, knowledge and writing practices. Transactions, Institute of British Geographers NS 22: 245-58. Burgess, J., Limb, M. and Harrison, C.M. 1988a: Exploring environmental values through small groups. Part one: theory and practice. Environment and Planning A 20: 309-20. Burgess, J., Limb, M. and Harrison, C.M. 1988b: Exploring environmental values through small groups. Part two: illustrations of a group at work. Environment and Planning A 20: 457-76. Craib, I. 1990: Psychoanalysis and social theory. Amherst, MA: Massachusetts University Press. Deutsche, R. 1991: Boys town. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 9: 5-30. Elliott, A. 1992: Social theory and psychoanalysis in transition: self and society from Freud to Kristeva. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. Mulvey, L. 1989: Visual pleasure and narrative cinema. In L. Mulvey, Visual and other pleasures. London: Macmillan, 14-26. O\'Tuathail, G. 1994: Critical geopolitics and development theory: intensifying the dialogue. Transactions, Institute of British Geographers NS 19: 228-38. Pile, S. 1991: Practising interpretive geography. Transactions, Institute of British Geographers NS 16: 458-69. Pile, S. 1992: Human agency and human geography revisited: a critique of \'new models\' of the self. Transactions, Institute of British GeographersNS18: 122-39. Pile, S. 1996: The body and the city: psychoanalysis, space and subjectivity. London: Routledge. Rose, G. 1993: Feminism and geography: the limits of geographical knowledge. Cambridge: Polity. Rose, G. 1995: Distance, surface, elsewhere: a feminist critique of the phallocentric space of self/knowledge. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 13: 761-81. Rose, G. 1996: As if the mirrors had bled: masculine dwelling, masculinist theory and feminist masquerade. In N. Duncan, ed., BodySpace: destabilizing geographies of gender and sexuality. London: Routledge, 56-74. Rose, G. 1997: Situating knowledges: positionality, reflexivities and other tactics. Progress in Human Geography 21: 305-20. Sibley, D. 1995: Geographies of exclusion: society and difference in the west. London: Routledge. Sparke, M. 1994: Escaping the herbarium: a critique of Gunnar Olsson\'s \'Chiasm of thought and action\'. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 12: 207-20.

Suggested Reading Grosz, E. 1990: Jacques Lacan: a feminist introduction. London: Routledge. Pile (1992).



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