Psychoanalysis in Cultural Studies: Readings and Proposals - Bochum, Germany - 19-20 June 2015
Stephen Frosh (Birkbeck, University of London)
Michael Rustin (University of East London)
There is arguably no other body of thought in Cultural Studies that has been both so controversially and productively applied as psychoanalysis. Not few, indeed, consider psychoanalytic approaches too speculative, ahistorical, universalist, and phallocentric to be reconciled with the methods and aims of Cultural Studies, whose main concern lies with the practices, conflicts, and values particular to a group, time, or place. On the other hand, psychoanalysis has in the past made some highly insightful and much needed contributions to the discipline: it has shed light on the unconscious and non-rational elements in identity and subject formation; it has complicated simplistic notions of how ideologies work (or do not work) at the level of the subject and cultural practice; it has – especially via its feminist re-workings – helped to explain issues of gendering and sexuality in culture; it has been able to bring out more clearly the processes involved in ethnic othering and intercultural encounters; it has refined Cultural Studies' grasp of the role of affect, emotion, and desire in people's behaviour; and – as the late Stuart Hall observed – it still serves as an important reminder to the students of culture that they "are [themselves] already caught in the structure of that which [they] are trying to think against and that there is no absolute moment to be free of those constraints".
Against the backdrop of this fruitful, if conflictual, relationship of the disciplines, and at a time when Cultural Studies is undergoing a period of intense self-analysis, this conference will offer a forum for debate in particular about the current and future role of psychoanalysis in Cultural Studies. As a framework, we suggest working towards answering three broad questions: (i) what have been the vital contributions of psychoanalysis to Cultural Studies? (ii) Can psychoanalysis give any fresh impulses to the field of Cultural Studies and, if so, will these be coming from Freudian, Lacanian, or Žižekian perspectives or some other, better suited, variants? (iii) Can psychoanalysis, apart from its more conventional fields of application (gender, sexuality, ethnicity, film, literature etc.), also be used to explore less likely cultural phenomena such as, for instance, the Premier League, the monarchy, Britain's Got Talent, anti-terrorist legislation, or David Cameron's Big Society?
We invite proposals of both a theoretical and an applied nature. Papers that deal with the general relationship between Cultural Studies and psychoanalysis or the potentials and limitations that a particular strand of psychoanalytic enquiry holds for Cultural Studies are just as welcome as specific psychoanalytic case studies of contemporary (British) cultural phenomena or constellations.
Paper presentations must not exceed 20 minutes. Please send 300-word abstracts detailing your paper's relationship to the conference's theme and aims and a short biographical note to the organisers before 1 December 2014.