Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools

Navigation

The Colonization of Psychic Space

A Psychoanalytic Social Theory of Oppression

2004
Author:

Kelly Oliver

The Colonization of Psychic Space

Reveals the psychic and social costs of racial and sexual oppression

Eloquently arguing that we cannot explain the development of individuality or subjectivity apart from its social context, Kelly Oliver makes a powerful case for recognizing the social aspects of alienation and the psychic aspects of oppression.

Oliver explores the ways in which the alienation unique to oppression leads to depression or violence; and how these affects can be transformed into agency, individuality, solidarity, and community.

Kelly Oliver brilliantly argues that the modern world emerges alongside a treacherous form of alienation, the alienation that destroys subjectivity and garners the psychic conditions for oppression.

Cynthia Willett, author of The Soul of Justice: Social Bonds and Racial Hubris

We are, Julia Kristeva writes, strangers to ourselves; and indeed much of contemporary theory, whether psychoanalytic, historical, social, or critical, describes the human condition as one of alienation. Eloquently arguing that we cannot explain the development of individuality or subjectivity apart from its social context, Kelly Oliver makes a powerful case for recognizing the social aspects of alienation and the psychic aspects of oppression.

Oliver’s work shows how existentialist and psychoanalytic notions of alienation cover up specific forms of racist and sexist alienation that serve as the underside of the human condition. She reveals that such notions are actually symptomatic of the subject’s anxiety and guilt over the oppression on which his privileged position rests. Not only does such alienation not embody subjectivity and humanity, it in fact undermines them.

Asserting that sublimation and forgiveness—and not alienation—constitute subjectivity, Oliver explores the complex ways in which the alienation unique to oppression leads to depression, shame, anger, or violence; and how these affects, now often misread and misdiagnosed, can be transformed into agency, individuality, solidarity, and community.


The Colonization of Psychic Space

Kelly Oliver holds the W. Alton Jones Chair in Philosophy at Vanderbilt University. Her books include Witnessing: Beyond Recognition (Minnesota, 2001) and, with Benigno Trigo, Noir Anxiety (Minnesota, 2002).

The Colonization of Psychic Space

Kelly Oliver brilliantly argues that the modern world emerges alongside a treacherous form of alienation, the alienation that destroys subjectivity and garners the psychic conditions for oppression.

Cynthia Willett, author of The Soul of Justice: Social Bonds and Racial Hubris

This book is not about theory, nor it is about technique of psychoanalysis. Its main topic is something rather different and more ambitious. This book will be of interest for psychoanalysts, and for all others that are seriously concerned with psychoanalysis, and many other groups.

Metapsychology

The Colonization of Psychic Space

Contents

Acknowledgments

Introduction: Why Turn to Psychoanalysis for a Social Theory of Oppression?

Part I. Alienation and Its Double

1. Alienation as Perverse Privilege of the Modern Subject
2. Alienation's Double as Burden of the Othered Subject

Part II. The Secretion of Race and Fluidity of Resistance

3. Colonial Abjection and Transmission of Affect
4. Humanism beyond the Economy of Property
5. Fluidity of Power

Part III. Social Melancholy and Psychic Space

6. The Affects of Oppression
7. The Depressed Sex
8. Sublimation and Idealization

Part IV. Revolt, Singularity, and Forgiveness

9. Revolt and Singularity
10. Forgiveness and Subjectivity

Conclusion: Ethics of Psychoanalysis; or, Forgiveness as an Alternative to Alienation

Notes
Works Cited

Index