This paper, the first of two focussed on the topic of libidinal attachments between white children and black domestic workers in narratives contributed to the Apartheid Archive Project (AAP), offers a series of methodological insights derived from a Lacanian type of psychoanalytic reading practice. A Lacanian reading practice is one which emphasizes the importance of symbolic juxtaposition, of recombining different facets of texts, and of attempting to locate what I term the “absent mediator” implied by tacit conjunctions and associations within texts. In this paper I focus particularly on a puzzling aspect shared by a series of contributions to the AAP, namely the role of animals in the narratives of white participants, which appear to emerge precisely when the question of a loving relation for a black person is posed. I argue that this narrative device is an attempt to make sense of a prospective relationship, particularly when such a relationship is effectively prohibited by the prevailing rules of interaction. In response to pressing questions of inter-racial loss and love, and in respect of an ambiguous inter-racial relationship, recourse to an animal provides a fantasmatic “solution”, a model of how to manage a relationship that otherwise difficult to understand.
Keywords: Absent mediators, Apartheid Archive, Lacan, psychoanalysis, racism
One of the unintended consequences of apartheid’s massive injustices of social division and inequality was – paradoxically – the production of relations of racial proximity. This pinpoints one of apartheid’s internal contradictions: as its white beneficiaries came increasingly to rely on the domestic labour provided by an oppressed black population, so a series of intimate white spheres – the site of the home, and more particularly, the care of children – were effectively opened up to “inter-racial” contact. It is for this reason that, psychoanalytically, the literature discussing the relationship of white children and black – childminders (“nannies”) (Cock, 1980 & 2011; Motsei, 1990; Ally, 2009) is so crucial to an understanding of the libidinal economy of apartheid. This literature speaks to the presence of intimacy within structures of power, to the factor of affective attachments, sexual and familial alike, occurring across seemingly impassable divisions of race. Read more
This paper, the second of two focussed on the libidinal attachments of white children to black domestic workers in narratives contributed to the Apartheid Archive Project (AAP), considers the applicability of the concept of social melancholia in the case of such “inter-racial” attachments. The paper questions both the psychoanalytic accuracy, and the psychic and political legitimacy of such an explanation (that is, the prospect of an “inter-racial” melancholic attachment of white subjects to black care-takers). By contrast to the political notion of ungrievable melancholic losses popularized by Judith Butler’s work, this paper develops a theory of compensatory symbolic identifications. Such a theory explains the apparent refusal of identification which white subjects exhibit towards black caretakers and it throws into perspective an important conceptual distinction regards loss. On the one hand there is the psychotic mechanism of melancholic attachment, which expresses absolute fidelity to a lost object, even to the point of self-destructive suffering. On the other, there is the neurotic mechanism of compensatory identification, in which the original object is jettisoned and a substitution found, such that a broader horizon of symbolic and ideological identification is enabled.
The companion piece (see: Rozenberg Quarterly) to the current paper investigated a series of Apartheid Archive narratives via the means of psychoanalytic reading practice. That paper and this one share a similar aim: of shedding light on certain of apartheid’s “lost attachments”. The analytical undertaking of a mode of psychoanalytic discourse analysis is not, of course, a-theoretical, and at least one crucial facet of the texts considered – their ostensibly mournful as aspect – begs further conjecture. In supplementing the foregoing article then, I am shifting here from a focus on specific strategies of textual reading practice to a critical exploration of the usefulness of a key psychoanalytic concept in the illumination of these texts. The first of these two papers engaged with the “dathow one might psychoanalytically read the repression of libidinal attachments via certain absent mediators. The current paper comprises an extended theoretical development of psychoanalytically reading a political situation of loss and how this should be conceptualized. Read more
Van Linschoten’s Itinerario 1598, First Book, Chapter One: Discours of Voyages into y East & West Indies
Being young and living idly in my native country, sometimes applying myself to the reading of histories and strange adventures, wherein I took no small delight, I found my mind so much addicted to see and travel into strange countries, thereby to seek some adventure, that in the end to satisfy myself I determined and was fully resolved for a time to leave my native country and my friends (although it grieved me). Yet the hope I had to accomplish my desire together with the resolution taken in the end overcame my affection and put me in good comfort to take the matter upon me, trusting in God that he would further my intent. Which done, being resolved, I took leave of my parents who as then dwelt at Enkhuysen, and being ready to embark myself I went to a fleet of ships that as then laid before Texel, weighing the wind to sail for Spain and Portugal. I was determined to travel to Sevilla, where as then I had two brothers that had gone there several years before; so to help myself the better and by their means to know the manner and customs of those countries and also to learn the Spanish tongue.
The collapse of the apartheid state and the ushering in of democratic rule in 1994 represented a new beginning for the new South Africa and the Southern African region. There were widespread expectations and hopes that the elaboration of democratic institutions would also inaugurate policies that would progressively alleviate poverty and inequality.
Fourteen years into the momentous events that saw Nelson Mandela become the president of South Africa, critical questions are being asked about the country’s transition, especially about its performance in meeting the targets laid down in its own macro-economic programmes in terms of poverty and inequality, and the consequences of the fact that the expectations of South Africans have not been met.
At a general level the euphoria of 1994 has come up against deepening inequality, rising unemployment, the HIV pandemic and bourgeoning violent crime. The latter has led one writer to conclude that South Africa is ‘a country at war with itself’ (Altbeker 2007).
South Africans have trusted democracy with the hard task to deliver jobs, wealth, healthcare, better housing and services to the people. But now that all of this is slow in arriving, there is growing disquiet and increased community protests that have sought to challenge the government on the pace of service delivery.
It is the level of what we have labelled a crisis of expectation that this paper speaks to. It looks at what under lies this crisis of expectation and what are the potential consequences. Read more
Conservative and nationalist blocks have successfully politicized Euro-elections. The other parties must clearly profile what they want to pursue and what re-arrange within the EU, to stand any chance of providing a home for citizens who have ample reason to grumble. Euro-elections landscape, 2014.
The United States of Europe is heading for the election of a European Parliament in May 2014. Oops! Who said that? Never invoke the F-word, meaning federal. Expunge the thought. In the Netherlands, there prevails a strong conviction that the European Union can “never” become a federal state and “should not try to do so”.[i] That would be a super-state, and out of the question: European history says, never! We beg to differ: never say never.
Apart from the gigantesque vocabulary of the European Union’s labyrinthine institutional structure – “Presidents and councils, everywhere you look, with names so similar that few can tell them apart” – the question arises as to whether the European citizen understands how he is represented, let alone how the representation of his nation-state is managed.[ii] The present structure is the legacy of a past when Die Herre der Verträge decided the course of European integration, with the public more or less quietly in attendance. Now that at last the engagement of the public has become a condition sine qua non, the power of the people has become critical for European democracy. How are the people represented? Does European governance pass the test of being public? Just how can European citizens change Europe by casting their vote? These critical questions arise from article 10 (3) of the Treaty on European Union (Maastricht, 1992):
“Every citizen shall have the right to participate in the democratic life of the Union. Decisions shall be taken as openly and as closely as possible to the citizen.”
Obviously, this is not yet the case. In our country, the Netherlands, the turnout for the European Parliament has been very low in recent elections: 36.8% in 2009 (lower than the turnout in the whole of the Union, 43%), a little lower than in 2004, but higher than the ultimate downer of not even 30% in 1999. This sharply contrasts with the turnout for the Netherlands Parliament: 84.4 % in 2006, almost 75 % in 2010, and 73.8% in 2012. Political commentators are excited, framing this election as a head on collision of quixotic European Union masterminds and populist naysayers who represent ‘the people,’ and predicting that 2014 will become a European disaster year.[iii] Read more
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