Towards an Analytic Theorization of Colour-Coded Object Relations

PhD Thesis

Dalai, Farhad N. 2001. Towards an Analytic Theorization of Colour-Coded Object Relations. PhD Thesis University of East London School of Social Sciences
AuthorsDalai, Farhad N.
TypePhD Thesis

The aim of the thesis is a psychoanalytic and group analytic theorization of racism in general and colourracism
in particular in the clinical context in Britain.
Following a critical survey of the notion of race, it is suggested that of more significance than race, is the
activity of racialization in which the notions of black and white play a central role. The definition of racism
proposed is that racism is any use of the idea of race as an organizing principle. Next, explanations of racism
are extracted from the theories of Freud, Klein, Fairbairn and Winnicott. This is followed by a critical review
of the literature on racism and prejudice found in the main psychoanalytic journals. It is found that the
psychoanalytic take on racism is limited in what it can achieve because it is too internalist and individualistic,
and so cannot take account of the group phenomenon of racism. The study then gives abbreviated accounts of
engagements with racism in the works of Adorno, Kovel, Wolfenstein, Fanon, Rustin and de Zulueta. The thesis now turns its attention from the level of the individual to the level of the group. The group analytic theory of S.H. Foulkes is introduced, in particular his description of the social unconscious. The ideas of Norbert Elias are used to extend group analytic theory to generate a psycho-social theory in which the structures of society are shown to be reproduced in the structure of psyches. The argument continues, that if society is colour-coded, then so is the psyche. Next, the semantic history of the terms black and white in the English language was traced. This included the use of these terms in the Authorized Version of the Bible. It was found that many of the associations with blackness which are taken to be timeless - death, anger, etc. -
occur in the last few hundred years. The semantic evidence shows, that before blackness and whiteness could became the servants of racism, they were cathected with negativity and positivity. Following this they were increasingly used as parts-of-names as a way of signalling the value and status of the named. From the 1600's, the confluence of an increasing sense of negativity with the notion of blackness, the naming of non-European "thems' as black, when combined with the labelling of emotions and behaviours progressively designated as disagreeable as black, give credence to the idea that societies and psyches were being divided in colour-coded ways. A general theory of difference was developed based on the work of Matte-Blanco (bilogic), Foulkes (social unconscious), Elias (power-relations) and Winnicott (identity formation). The model of
human beings that is generated by this theorization is one in which the forms of psyche are predicated on the
forms of society, with the two in a recursive relationship to each other. Components of this model include an
alternative model of the unconscious, and a problematizing of the notion of the whole. This theory was applied to the territory of race and racism. The resulting theory of racism is an integration of insights from three domains - the cognitive, the emotional and the sociological. Thus racism can no longer thought of as primarily a result of splitting and projection, but as a complex psycho-social phenomenon that is driven by the pragmatics of the power-relations in the world. Whilst psychological mechanisms play a critical role in this process, they are not elevated as causal agencies. Finally, some indication is given of the resulting modifications required of the practices of psychotherapy - in particular it is argued that the notion of the transference needs to be extended to include the historical relations between groups of people.

KeywordsRacism; Psycho-social theory; cognitive, emotional and sociological insights
Publication dates
PrintMar 2001
Publication process dates
Deposited10 Mar 2014
Additional information

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