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      Book Review

      Medical History

      Cambridge University Press

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          This stimulating volume is certainly a fresh contribution to the study of psychiatry and colonialism. It adds to other recent works that have taken the field beyond the asylums and hospitals which, as fecund document producers, have inevitably attracted the attention of historians. But it is also more than that. Just as Freud and his followers aimed to go beyond the study of psychopathology in pursuit of a gain for normal psychology, at its most ambitious this volume seeks not only to explore the clinical role of psychoanalysis in colonial and post-colonial contexts, but its wider role in the constitution of modern mentalities, to see the psychoanalysable subject as a globalised phenomenon as much as capital and commodities. It also shows how psychoanalysis itself, as a product of European modernity, was born twinned with colonialism. The contributors are critical of psychoanalysis, which is shown to be rife with the assumptions of colonial ideology. However, they are more concerned to contextualise psychoanalysis than to bury it. The volume is refreshingly distant from the ‘Freud Wars’. Moreover, the chapters are alert on occasion to liberatory potentials in psychoanalysis. As Joy Damousi notes in a discussion of the Hungarian analyst Geza Roheim’s ethnography in Australia, psychoanalysis has had – perhaps more than any other artefact of cosmopolitan psychiatry – a particularising drive that could partially challenge the primitivism of colonial discourse. Yet it remained too steeped in that discourse to escape it completely. And psychoanalysis was, no less than other psychiatric theories, prey to the conundrum: assertions of universality risk colonising by suppressing the local, yet, as Didier Fassin shows in a trenchant chapter on French ehtnopsychiatry, assertions of the particular run the opposite risk, of colonising by exoticising. There is much more work to be done. The volume left me wondering about psychoanalysis’s own cultural figuration as Jewish and Viennese may have led to it being ‘orientalised’ even amidst its success in Western Europe. I would have loved to see more exploration of certain figures, such as the South African psychoanalyst Wulf Sachs, and the ethnographers Georges Devereux and Meyer Fortes. Most challenging will be to move even further beyond the contexts of clinicians and experts into broader mentalities. Such a study will probably reveal not only the colonial reach of psychoanalysis, but the limits of that reach. Like recent books on psychoanalysis by Eli Zaretsky and George Makari, Unconscious Dominions shows that the history of psychoanalysis is far from being an over-studied topic. It is a major current in the making of modernity and has many unexplored tributaries.

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          Author and article information

          Med Hist
          Med Hist
          Medical History
          Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, UK )
          October 2012
          October 2012
          : 56
          : 4
          : 607-608
          Case Western Reserve University, USA
          S002572731200066X 00066
          © The Author 2012 Published by Cambridge University Press
          Page count
          Pages: 2
          Product Information: booksimple . ,   . and     (eds),   Unconscious Dominions: Psychoanalysis, Colonial Trauma, and Global Sovereignties.

          , pp. 328, $24.95, paperback, $89.95, hardback, ISBN: 9780822349792. 



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