Beyond ‘Diversity’. Racism and the Psychoanalytic

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Organised by:

British Psychotherapy Foundation

24 April 2024

Time: 18:30 - 19:30

Price: Free

Location: online


Full title: Beyond ‘Diversity’. Racism and the Psychoanalytic Profession

Historically relatively few people from racially minoritized communities have joined the psychoanalytic profession and those who do describe training and membership as a difficult and painful process. White members of our institutions will comment on this from time to time and ‘solutions’ sought to bring greater ‘diversity’ to the organisation. But I argue we have tended to do so without real examination of what needs to change and what privilege may need to be given up. I suggest this ‘diversity agenda’ is at best meaningless and, at worst, a defence against real change. By considering the problems inherent in whiteness itself, I explore how these operate in our profession by highlighting themes such as the historic bid for acceptance of psychoanalysis in the West; the racist roots of some psychoanalytic and Jungian analytic concepts; alongside the familiar hidden racism of white liberal institutions.

A key difficulty in exploring how dynamics such as racism operate within our organisations lies in the focus of psychoanalysis on the individual and the tendency to isolate the so-called ‘inner’ world from ‘outer’ world dynamics. Psychoanalytic understandings of how racism operates tends, therefore, to concentrate on the dynamics of splitting, projection and introjection within the individual psyche. Whilst useful to an extent, this tends to reinforce the individualism that liberal white people prefer. We are more comfortable thinking in terms of the individual racist act from which we can then dissociate ourselves. But the division of the races was created by a racist system for the economic and political purposes of justifying slavery and colonialism. It is a deep, entrenched, social structure which creates and promotes white privilege and is one within which we all live. No one can be free from it and the phrase ‘I am not a racist’ is meaningless in such a system. I suggest we need to soften the distinction between inner and outer and I offer the African American Jungian Analyst, Sam Kimbles’ concept of the cultural complex as a way of helping us understand how racism operates within the collective.

Whilst it can seem an intractable problem, the work that is going on to challenge white supremacy in organisations such as the bpf is described and proposals given for possible ways forward.

About the speaker
Helen Morgan is a Fellow of the British Psychotherapy Foundation and is a training analyst and supervisor for the British Jungian Analytic Association within the bpf. Her background is in therapeutic communities with adolescents and in adult mental health. She was chair of the British Association of Psychotherapists from 2004–2008, and chair of the British Psychoanalytic Council from 2015-2018. She has written a number of papers on the subject of racism and psychotherapy and her book, The Work of Whiteness. A Psychoanalytic Perspective was published in 2021 by Routledge. She is also co-author with Fanny Brewster of the book Racial Identities published by Routledge in 2022 as part of their ‘Jung, Politics and Culture’ series.

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