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Kaplan, E.A. (1993). The Couch Affair: Gender and Race in Hollywood Transference. Am. Imago, 50(4):481-514.

(1993). American Imago, 50(4):481-514

The Couch Affair: Gender and Race in Hollywood Transference

E. Ann Kaplan


This essay, a work in progress, juxtaposes several related discussions without aiming at an integration for which I do not yet have the language. Each time I tried to remove one of the discussions, it was missed, and so the parts remain: hopefully, by the end of the essay, the reader will herself discover interconnections in the gaps between the parts.

Part I engages, briefly, the general absence of clinical research on race and psychoanalysis, and suggests possible causes for this; Part II situates, also briefly, feminist critiques of psychoanalysis, and the historical absence of white feminist interrogation of black women's specific dilemmas: Part III continues by discussing a specific psychoanalytic phenomenon, the transference, which is the main thread of the essay: literally an inter-subjective relationship within clinical practice, transference provides a model for gender and race power hierarchies in society and in cultural institutions. Freud's transference theories are recalled and their significance for some feminine positions outlined in preparation for Part IV: there I examine Hollywood's use of the transference as a mechanism for normalizing both gender and race relations in the service of white, patriarchal dominance. The complexities of links between individual psychic phenomena, politics and resistances to gender or race domination are a main theme in this section, where I try to avoid reductiveness or collapsing gender and race differences. I juxtapose varied strategies white patriarchy uses to construct “Otherness” from itself—or, rather, to construct itself through plottings of “Otherness.”

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