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Fisher, D.J. (2002). Unfree Associations: Inside Psychoanalytic Institutes. Douglas Kirsner. London: Process Press, 2000. vii & 324 pp. $32.00.. Am. Imago, 59(2):209-223.

(2002). American Imago, 59(2):209-223

Book Review

Unfree Associations: Inside Psychoanalytic Institutes. Douglas Kirsner. London: Process Press, 2000. vii & 324 pp. $32.00.

Review by:
David James Fisher

Recent scholarship in the history of psychoanalysis has concentrated on the reception of Freud's theories in various national frameworks. Researchers tend to be divided between those who see the history of psychoanalysis as a relatively autonomous field and those who see it more broadly as part of either intellectual history or the disciplinary apparatus of cultural studies. In meticulous detail, Nathan Hale (1971, 1985), a professional historian, has employed a chronological framework to chronicle in two volumes the diffusion of Freudian ideas in America from 1917 to 1985. Writing from a comparative sociological perspective, Edith Kurzweil (1989) has studied the resistance to and assimilation of Freudian psychoanalysis in five national contexts—the United States, England, Germany, Austria, and France. Sherry Turkle (1978), drawing her methodology from sociology, furnishes a shrewd understanding of the rise and collapse of Lacan in the Parisian milieu. Even more encyclopedically, Elisabeth Roudinesco (1982, 1986) offers a two-volume history of psychoanalysis in France, following its trajectory from Freud's visit to Charcot in 1885 to battles over Lacan's legacy in the 1980s. Subtitled “the one-hundred-year battle,” Roudinesco's book is that of a Lacanian insider who has mastered a vast armamentarium of French philosophical and poststructuralist perspectives; she has also had access to the personal archives of seminal individuals in the French analytic movement and conducted interviews with them. She capped her investigations with a perceptive and disturbing biography of Lacan (1997), which in its French version is subtitled “Sketch of a Life, History of a System of Thought.”

An Australian and critical theorist, Douglas Kirsner is an outsider who writes as neither a historian, nor a sociologist, nor a psychoanalyst.

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