Scholars’ Study #6
We are pleased to circulate the sixth edition of the Scholars’ Study. The aim is to inform our community about publications, events, or other news in relation to the scholars and more widely to psychoanalysis beyond the clinic. The Scholars’ Study should facilitate a home and community for the Scholars where we can all share ideas, get to know each other, and learn about events, or other activities.
We are pleased to share the latest edition of the newsletter with you.
Please continue to send us your news, publications, events, and texts.
Editors: Dr. Theodora Thomadaki (University of East London) and Dr. Jacob Johanssen (St. Mary’s University)
Associate Editors: Ruth Llewellyn and Amy Tatum
New Publications & Events
A reminder to please send details of your new publications or events where you are a speaker/organiser to the newsletter team so that we can collate a list as part of this newsletter. Please send your updates to the Scholars’ Team.
The BPC network is a great opportunity to let others know about PhD research that you are supervising. We’d like to include a regular section in the newsletter on PhDs, so please do send names and titles/a line about the main topics to the newsletter email too. We hope to be able to profile PhDs and to bring them in as Associate Members in due course.
Should you have any other ideas for activities and events within the network, do drop one of us a line. We’d be very happy to help.
With kind regards
The Scholars’ Network Events Sub-Committee
Brett Kahr | Caroline Bainbridge | Jacob Johanssen | Poul Rohleder | Theodora Thomadaki
- Jacob Johanssen and Steffen Krüger publish Media and Psychoanalysis: A Critical Introduction (Karnac Books)
- Which PhD students our Scholars are currently supervising
There are multiple events from our community. We have only listed a selection.
An Interview with Carol Siegel, former Director of the Freud Museum London and Honorary Member of the BPC Scholars Network
1) Could you tell us a little about your background? Do you remember when you first encountered psychoanalysis?
My academic background is as a historian. I studied History as an undergraduate at Cambridge in the late 1970s, and later completed a Masters at Birkbeck in Modern Social and Economic History. I remain fascinated by the study of history and have explored this in a number of museum posts – at the Jewish Museum, the Museum of London, and Hampstead Museum for instance.
I was always aware of psychoanalysis through the osmosis of living in north London -meeting analysts and psychotherapists, having friends who were in therapy – but it remained something of a fascinating mystery. In studying history, I had encountered the psychoanalytical approach of Peter Gay and others. I was aware of the controversy surrounding that approach and around psychoanalysis more generally.
I had little direct knowledge though of Sigmund or Anna Freud’s work it until I started work at the Freud Museum. I am very glad that the Board took the risk of hiring me despite not being in any way an expert on Sigmund Freud or psychoanalysis. My time at the Museum was a steep learning curve, but in some ways I think it helped me understand how to make the museum more accessible, as I was on a similar learning journey myself.
2) How would you say has the Freud Museum changed during your tenure as director?
When I joined the Freud Museum it had a strong reputation as a scholarly institution that primarily appealed to those who worked in the psychology field and those who already had knowledge of Sigmund Freud and psychoanalysis. For many visitors it was (and remains) a pilgrimage to see Freud’s final home, his study, and the original psychoanalytic couch.
We have now widened the Museum’s appeal beyond those who were already specialists ‘in the know’, to those who might be sceptical about Freud, or who knew little about psychoanalysis. The aim has been to make the Museum accessible to those who worried that, without specialist knowledge, the Freud Museum was not for them.
I hope that visitors from any background will recognise Sigmund Freud as one of the most influential twentieth century figures, who changed the way we all think about ourselves and humanity more generally. There is too more attention now given to Anna Freud, as a successful woman and pioneering child psychoanalyst.
There were a number of ways in which the Museum achieved these changes, attracting bigger audiences in the process – updating how the displays are interpreted; expanding the public programme to encompass a wide range of talks, courses, conferences and events to appeal to more varied audiences; running a high-profile exhibition programme which included artists like Louise Bourgeois, Mark Wallinger, and currently Lucian Freud; and a successful education service used by schools and universities from across the country and abroad.
The Museum has also widened its subject matter away from just Sigmund Freud himself. There is more emphasis on Anna Freud’s work; on contemporary culture looked at through a psychoanalytic lens; on the house as a home of refugees in exile; and most recently on mental health issues more broadly. This is evidenced by a growing outreach programme, working with partners in the local community and beyond.
We were able to achieve these changes by expanding the team, employing a passionate group of knowledgeable staff who make the experience better across the board. The museum has been described as ‘clever, warm and welcoming’ – I hope this is how it is now perceived by its visitors.
3) What have you learned about Freud and what have been the most memorable challenges and opportunities in the museum in the past 13 years?
I am still by no means an expert on Sigmund Freud’s theories and practice, but I hope I have learnt to understand and admire his profound influence on the world of psychology and beyond.
In practice, in my own work at the Museum I have concentrated more on his life, his particular experiences in 1938-39, his time in Maresfield Gardens, and some of the broader themes of this time, for instance the fight against fascism, and the refugee story. I hope some of this has been reflected in the work carried out at the Freud Museum in recent years, for instance the exhibitions Leaving Today: The Freuds in Exile 1938 or Code Name Mary: The Extraordinary Life of Muriel Gardiner
As far as challenges go, they were mainly the prosaic – but vital – ones of raising enough money to keep the museum going. The Freud Museum is independent, with no regular public support. In 2015 its only regular grant, from the New Land Foundation, was phased out. Since then it has had to generate all its own income – which it does through visitor admissions, running events, a successful shop and private hire, as well as fundraising and constant grant applications.
The second great challenge (as for so many organisations) was the Covid pandemic, when the museum was forced to close its doors in March 2020, and income dried up overnight. It survived by quickly moving its public programme online; through the expansion of the online shop; reopening as soon as allowed in a way that the public felt protected and safe, as well as taking advantage of government schemes, such as furlough monies and the Cultural Recovery Fund. The Museum was able to come through the pandemic with its staff team intact, which felt like a real achievement.
Sometimes it felt as if all my time was spent on the challenges, but the opportunities were wonderful. Highlights were the ambitious temporary exhibitions, the talks by high quality speakers on the public programme, the enthusiastic volunteers who quite often became passionate staff members, and building friendships and partnerships with colleagues and supporters from around the world.
It was a privilege to run a museum which has such a fascinating and important story, and spend so much time with dedicated colleagues working out how to tell that story in new and imaginative ways. Life was never boring at the Freud Museum!
4) How has the public’s engagement with the museum changed over the years?
Some of this is to do with numbers – visitor numbers doubled between 2009 and today – but some of it is to do with the variety of ways in which people can engage. Visitors coming through the door are still the bedrock of the museum, but there are so many other ways in which the public can learn about the museum and become involved in its work. The Museum is constantly looking for new audiences, and thinking how to broaden its appeal.
The biggest change has been through digital engagement. People can now attend online events from all over the world, and this was given a huge fillip during the pandemic. They can also learn more from the website, with its online exhibitions, digital collection and archive materials, virtual museum tour, education resources, podcasts and blog posts.
More formal learning is also a key part of the museum’s offer. There is a popular and expanding education programme, aimed at older secondary school and college students, who can book sessions in person or online with dedicated education officers. Adults can book courses on many aspects of Freudian theory or psychoanalysis. For anyone engaging with the museum, there are bursary or pay what you can schemes to ensure that no one is barred due to cost.
There has been increasing focus on reaching out to new partners, and devising programmes specifically designed for them. These include programmes for mental health service users, for people with dementia, and recently the Chinese community in London in association with the recent exhibition Freud and China.
5) What might the museum be like in 50 years from now?
This is a very interesting question. I think there are two answers, one related to the future of museums, and one more to the future of psychoanalysis, and Sigmund and Anna Freud’s legacy.
The priorities of museums are changing across the world. Museums are increasingly aware of their role in the community, less as intimidating ivory towers and more as valuable resources for a wider range of people across the whole of society. They are increasingly focussing on sustainability, equality, inclusion and diversity, while still caring for their invaluable collections. I expect the Freud Museum will be moving in a similar direction, and its recent focus on outreach and partnership work with, for instance, carers and refugee groups, is very much part of that.
It seems likely too that the digital experience will be paramount. Climate change and a reduction in air travel may mean far fewer overseas visitors, but a huge increase in those wanting to access the museum and its resources online. You will probably be able to enter the study virtually and experience it as if you were actually in the space.
In 2072 it will be well over 100 years since Sigmund Freud lived, worked and died in Maresfield Gardens. I suspect that although his legacy will still be present there in the iconic couch, and his extraordinary library and collections, the Museum’s emphasis will be less on the Freud family experiences and the house’s history and more on the role of psychoanalysis in late 21st century Britain in treating issues of mental health.
6) What are your plans for retirement?
I haven’t quite worked out the right answer to that question yet! I am hoping it won’t be exactly ‘retirement’, but ‘redirection’, or like Serena Williams, ‘evolution’.
I hope to keep a foot in the door of the museum world, to study, to travel, to volunteer, to enjoy all the cultural life that London has to offer, to read more books, fiction and non-fiction – and to see as much as possible of friends and family, including my four small grandsons, one only a few days old as I write.
That all sounds quite exhausting, so I am also very much in tune with the writer Geoff Dyer’s approach: ‘I define retirement as the phase of life in which I will do nothing but watch tennis’.
Seriously, I hope I will have time and space to enjoy life, while still giving something back. I will certainly keep in touch with the Freud Museum and look forward to seeing its next steps.
7) What will the future hold for psychoanalysis inside and outside the clinic in the cultural sector?
I think on this one the reader’s guess will be as good as mine. However psychoanalysis has become increasingly important in the cultural sector as a prism through which to look at art, history, film, contemporary culture and society. Indeed this is often the entry point for many visitors to the Freud Museum, and the basis of much of its programming. I imagine this will continue to be true in the future, with psychoanalytic ideas and approaches offering an exciting way into exploring contemporary culture.
Inside the clinic the future seems less certain, but psychoanalysis must remain important in this increasingly fractured world. So many people are experiencing mental health difficulties both arising from their own experiences and influenced by external events such as the pandemic and the climate crisis. Hopefully psychoanalysis will continue to be affordable and available to individuals and will remain influential in explorations by the cultural sector of these massive, life-threatening changes facing us all.
News from our Scholars
Jacob Johanssen and Steffen Krüger publish Media and Psychoanalysis: A Critical Introduction (Karnac Books)
Our lives are saturated by media that we use in conscious as well as unconscious ways. Spanning a wide range of examples, from film and TV to social media, from gaming to robots, this critical introduction guides readers through the growing field of psychoanalytic media studies in a clear and accessible manner. It is an indispensable read for anyone who wants to understand the complex relationship between humans and technology today.
Jacob Johanssen and Steffen Krüger show how media function beyond the rational. What does it mean to speak of narcissism in relation to social media? How have the internet and online platforms shaped work? How do apps like Tinder and online pornography shape our experience of love and sexuality? What are the potentials and pitfalls in our relationships with AI and robots? These questions, and many others, are discussed and answered in this book.
Aimed at students, academics and clinicians, this book introduces readers to key media and the ways they have been approached psychoanalytically, and presents major concepts and debates led by scholars since the 1970s. Order your copy here.
Please email the Editors with details about the PhD students you are currently supervising:
David Henderson is supervising the following PhD students:
University of Essex:
- Rui Shi – Cultural Homelessness: Research on Mental Health of Migrant Children in China
- Sofie Qwarnstrom – The Inferior (Personality) Function in Shakespeare’s Plays
- Krisztian Kalasz – C.G. Jung’s Visionary Experiences in Liber Novus and Campbell’s Journey of the Hero: The Illumination of an Esoteric Initatory Process
- Siyah Ulan – The Conjuring of Shared Cultural Complexes
- Emanuela Santini – Synergy of Thoughts and Making: The creative process of drawing as an expression of the unconscious
- Kate Brown – A legacy of love and hate, transference, counter transference, trauma and gender at the Cotswold Community. (or “Where is the love?”)
Barbara Taylor is supervising the following PhD student:
- Hannah Dee – who is writing a thesis on her uncle who was detained within the secure psychiatric system for nearly 30 years, using psychoanalytic ideas to reflect on her uncle’s experiences and their impact.
Discover the diverse array of our events within our community.
Below is just a small selection of upcoming events. To see the full list of events, visit our online calendar. You can also add your own event to our online calendar.
The Transcendent Function in Nelson Mandela’s Politics
The Society of Analytical Psychology
03 December 2022
This presentation is a follow up to the Journal of Analytical Psychology article ‘The transcendent function in politics: YES!’ (June 2022). After laying out some background, it will use this sporting event to show how the flexibility of attitude furnished by the transcendent function underpinned and helped shape the politics of Nelson Mandela. It will use the medium of film – including Invictus (2009) and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (2013) – to show how Mandela was willing to oppose both blacks and whites, maintaining the tension of opposites for the purpose of reconciliation. Find out more here.
Audiences with Authors: “All That We Are” with Gabriella Braun
British Psychotherapy Foundation
08 December 2022
In this collection of stories, Gabriella Braun shares insights from over twenty years of taking psychoanalysis out of the therapy room and into the staff room. She shows us why a board loses the plot, nearly causes their company to collapse, and how they come through.
Find out more here.
Psychoanalysis and the Culture-Breast
Noreen Giffney (Founding Scholar, BPC) and Freud Museum, London
28 January 2023 – 25 March 2023
Psychoanalysis and the Culture-Breast is a series of public conversations at the Freud Museum, London around our experiences with cultural objects (art, film, literature, music) and how psychoanalysis might help us to reflect on these experiences. All three events will take place online and from January-March 2023.
Find out more here.