Psychoanalysis and anti-racism in mid-20th-century America: An alternative angle of vision

AHP readers will be interested in a new piece in History of the Human Sciences: “Psychoanalysis and anti-racism in mid-20th-century America: An alternative angle of vision,” by Tom Fielder. Abstract:

The conventional historiography of psychoanalysis in America offers few opportunities for the elaboration of anti-racist themes, and instead American ‘ego psychology’ has often been regarded as the most acute exemplar of ‘racist’ psychoanalysis. In this article, consistent with the historiographical turn Burnham first identified under the heading of ‘the New Freud Studies’, I distinguish between histories of psychoanalytic practitioners and histories of psychoanalytic ideas in order to open out an alternative angle of vision on the historiography. For psychoanalytic ideas were in fact omnipresent within American culture at mid-century, and they played a fundamental role in the psychological reworking of race that unfolded in the work of social scientists, literary artists, and cultural critics in the 1940s and early Cold War years, culminating in the Brown v. Board of Education ruling of 1954, a major landmark in the civil rights narrative. By pursuing the implications of psychoanalysis in anti-racist struggles at mid-century, and with particular attention to Richard Wright and his autobiographical novel Black Boy, I move towards unearthing an alternative historical account of the intersection between psychoanalysis and race, which offers new ways for psychoanalysis and the history of the human sciences to think about this period.

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a professor at Quest University Canada. A critical feminist psychologist and historian of psychology, she is committed to critical pedagogy and public engagement with feminist psychology and the history of the discipline.