Psychoanalysis is a queer theory. That’s what Tim Dean said, according to Eve Watson
in the afterword to Clinical Encounters in Sexuality: Psychoanalytic Practice and Queer Theory
(Punctum Books, 2017), a new book that she co-edited with Noreen Giffney
. In her interview for this podcast, Watson qualifies that declaration by saying that psychoanalysis isn’t always a queer theory, but it should
be. “There are many psychoanalyses.”
Queer theory challenges the conventional approach to sexuality that many clinicians absorbed from their training. These clinicians run the risk of imposing outdated and oppressive sexual norms upon their clients. Until the mid-70’s, homosexuality was officially a mental illness and many psychoanalysts continued to try to cure homosexuals of their sexual pathology long after the DSM corrected its culturally determined diagnostic judgment in 1973. Queer theorists argue that this error was not an isolated incident but rather a trend within institutionalized psychoanalysis that continues to limit the effectiveness of psychoanalytic practice today, and in the worst cases, to harm its consumers.
In fact, the paragraphs above may give a distorted view of the book which does not pursue an argument but presents a stimulating conversation among queer theorists and clinicians about psychoanalysis, sexuality, gender, identity, and discourse. The conversation can fly high at times, especially for those who are new to this kind of literature, but the variety of contributors speak in many voices and every reader will find something valuable in this book for deepening their psychoanalytic vision.
Philip Lance, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and psychotherapist with a private practice in Los Angeles. He is candidate at The Psychoanalytic Center of California. He can be reached at PhilipJLance@gmail.com