Race and Psychic Pleasure: Freud, Lacan, and the Politics of Race

Austen Riggs Center

25 Main St
StockbridgeMassachusetts 01262
November 20, 2020 at 6:30 PM

Virtual Friday Night Guest Lecture with Sheldon George, PhD

NOTE: This is s a VIRTUAL event and requires advance registration.

Friday Night Guest Lectures are designed for mental health professionals, offered free of charge, and provide 1.0 continuing education credit (see details below). 

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Our political and social moment seems destabilized by an increased emphasis on racial difference. But psychoanalysis has long ignored the stabilizing role aggression toward racial others has played in structuring society. Decades after American slavery ended, Freud, upon witnessing the horrors of World War I, first recognized within human subjects a drive toward aggression that he argued must be repressed for the sustainability of civilization. This talk reads slavery as a full manifestation of this psychic drive toward aggression. Through recourse to Lacanian theory, it argues that race functions as a source of psychic pleasure, or what Lacan calls jouissance. This jouissance is a mode of enjoyment that lures the subject to perilous transgressions that stabilize American society into its consistently oppressive racial configuration. Moving through an analysis of American slave masters’ efforts to establish slavery as a mask for what we can describe after Lacan as the psychic lack of the subject—a mask that refuted lack with racial superiority—the talk will turn to the writings of Zora Neale Hurston to describe religion and race as mechanisms through which African Americans themselves contend against social unveilings of psychic lack. Ending with a discussion of the role played by pleasure in contemporary incidents of police violence, the talk presents race as an apparatus that mediates subjective lack.  Race, it argues, binds contemporary American civilization to sustained modes of psychic pleasure and discontent that grew out of the atrocity of slavery. 

Sheldon George, PhD, is a professor of English, a Lacanian theorist, and a scholar of African-American literature. He is an associate editor of Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society and a guest editor of two special issues of the journal:  “African Americans and Inequality” (2014) and “Lacanian Psychoanalysis:  Interventions into Culture and Politics” (2018). Dr. George’s book Trauma and Race: A Lacanian Study of African American Racial Identity was published in 2016 by Baylor University Press. He is coeditor of Reading Contemporary African American and Black British Women Writers: Narrative, Race, Ethics (Routledge 2020) and is currently completing a collection on Lacan and Race. 

For questions or additional information, please contact Erikson Institute Education Coordinator and Events Assistant, Kathleen Young at: kathleen.young@austenriggs.net / 413.931.5230.

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  • To describe developments in contemporary psychoanalysis
  • To examine interdisciplinary theories and methods of understanding human and cultural experience
  • To recognize biopsychosocial contributions to complex clinical issues

(Physicians, Psychologists, Social Work, LMHC, Nursing Contact Hours)

The Austen Riggs Center designates this live interactive webinar for a maximum of 1.0 AMA PRA Category1 Credit(s) ™. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. 

The Austen Riggs Center is accredited by the Massachusetts Medical Society to provide continuing medical education for physicians.

The Austen Riggs Center also designates this live interactive webinar for 1.0 continuing education credit(s) (CE) for psychology.

This live interactive webinar meets the requirements of the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Nursing at 244 CMR 5.00 for 1.0 contact hour(s).

The Austen Riggs Center is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. The Austen Riggs Center maintains responsibility for the program and its content. For additional information about this program, please call the Erikson Institute Education Coordinator, at 413.931.5230.

The Austen Riggs Center, #1344, is approved to offer social work continuing education by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Approved Continuing Education (ACE) program. Organizations, not individual courses, are approved as ACE providers. State and provincial regulatory boards have the final authority to determine whether an individual course may be accepted for continuing education credit. Austen Riggs Center maintains responsibility for this course. ACE provider Approval Period: 02/02/2020-2/2/2023. Social workers completing this live interactive webinar will receive 1.0 continuing education credit(s). 

For a listing of jurisdictions that accept ACE, please visit www.aswb.org/ace/ace-jurisdiction-map/.

This live interactive webinar meets the requirements of the MaMHCA, authorization # TBD for 1.0 category 1 continuing education credit(s). 

The Austen Riggs Center follows all state and federal laws and regulations, including the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). In accordance with the ADA, the Austen Riggs Center is committed to accessibility. If you need accommodations for your course, please contact info@austenriggs.net

For information about our accreditation, please visit: www.austenriggs.org/accreditation-educational-activities.

Attendees who wish to receive CE credit should note:  

After the conclusion of the event, you will receive an email with a link to complete the evaluation and claim your credits.


1.5 hours