“Why is the body the site of so much ongoing, current and growing attention in the West”? asks the feminist psychoanalyst and public intellectual Susie Orbach in her book Bodies (Picador, 2009). In this interview, the groundbreaking author of Fat is a Feminist Issue (inter alia)speaks to New Books in Psychoanalysis about how the body is “no longer a place we live from” but rather a place where the capitalist marketplace has hit a sort of pay dirt. From trendy diets to vaginal recalibration to liposuction, the body is big business. Indeed, as women and men feel a greater and greater need to control their bodies, losing touch with our natural appetites, and attempting to look a certain way, the market that exploits our fears and anxieties is making a fortune.
Meanwhile analysts are more and more likely to encounter patients with a plethora of what Orbach calls “bodily instabilities.” She argues that the profession should take a moment to rethink what is ailing the physically unstable analysand, suggesting that we are not looking at hysterical symptoms, but rather we are seeing bodies that never cohered in the first place. All the pressure on mothers in the past 30 years to police their own desires for food, for rest, for pleasure in the body, has produced a generation of offspring that inherited their caretakers’ sense that the body is not for living in, but rather the body is a project, and an ongoing one. Orbach describes “an internal body” that is often missing in those struggling with anorexia or bulimia or plastic surgeries. In this interview she describes how the analyst can listen to her own body to come to better tune into a pre-verbal and, in fact, a pre-physicalized, pre-body transference.
Orbach is engaging, funny, and willing to step into one of the major social problems of today–living while having never developed bodily coherence.