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White Society Colloquium: Enacting Identity: Normative Unconscious Processes in Clinic and Culture

Date: May 18, 2018 8:00 pm
Lynne Layton, PhD
Enacting Identity: Normative Unconscious Processes in Clinic and Culture
Discussant: Katharina Rothe, PhD
Friday, May 18, 2018, 8pm-9:30pm

Beginning with Fromm's assertion of a "social unconscious" and vignettes from the 50s and 60s that illustrate how clinical interpretations can contribute to reproducing a sexist status quo, the presentation demonstrates how unconscious psychosocial processes permeate identity formation and clinical work. Examples of racist, sexist, and classist enactments in the clinic demonstrate the workings of normative unconscious processes that sustain cultural and power inequalities. Such enactments are not considered "mistakes," but rather demonstrate the way identities of both patients and therapists are formed by cultural demands to split off and project ways of being human deemed not "proper" to occupying their given social position. The talk concludes with thoughts about contemporary social forces that contribute to white middle-class subject formation and white middle-class symptoms, focusing again on unconscious collusions that stem from both culture and clinic.



1. At the end of this program you will be able to recognize various ways that ordinary psychological states and character are produced by culturally-mandated splitting and projective processes.

2. At the end of this program you will be able to recognize normative processes and their operation in the clinic.

3. At the end of this program you will be able to recognize the way that neoliberal institutions and ideologies shape subjective practices and create particular kinds of symptoms shared by patient and therapist alike.


Lynne Layton is a psychoanalyst and on the faculty of Harvard Medical School. She supervises at the Massachusetts Institute for Psychoanalysis and is adjunct faculty at Pacifica Graduate Institute.  She is the author of Who's That Girl? Who's That Boy? Clinical Practice Meets Postmodern Gender Theory, co-editor of Bringing the Plague. Toward a Postmodern Psychoanalysis, and co-editor of Psychoanalysis, Class and Politics: Encounters in the Clinical Setting. She is editor emeritus of the journal Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society, associate editor of Studies in Gender and Sexuality, and co-founder of the Boston Psychosocial Work Group. She is Past-President of Section IX, Psychoanalysis for Social Responsibility, of Division 39, and co-founder of Reflective Spaces/Material Places-Boston.


Katharina Rothe, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, psychoanalyst and psychosocial researcher. She is a graduate of psychoanalytic training and a member of faculty at the W. A. White Institute and maintains a private practice in New York City. She is widely published in academic journals and books on psychoanalysis, qualitative methods in psychoanalytic social research, sex and gender, anti-Semitism, racism and the aftermath of National Socialism (Monograph: Rothe, K. (2009). Das (Nicht-)Sprechen über die Judenvernichtung. Psychische Weiterwirkungen des Holocaust in mehreren Generationen nicht-jüdischer Deutscher. Gießen: Psychosozial.) She is a co-editor of the German journal Psychoanalyse. Texte zur Sozialforschung [Psychoanalysis. Contributions to Social Research] and an associate editor of Contemporary Psychoanalysis.