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Davis, E. (2012). Racism and Cultural Diversity: Cultivating Racial Harmony Through Counselling, Group Analysis and Psychotherapy (2012) by M. J. Maher, published by Karnac.. Att: New Dir. in Psychother. Relat. Psychoanal., 6(3):264-266.

(2012). Attachment: New Directions in Psychotherapy and Relational Psychoanalysis, 6(3):264-266

Book Review

Racism and Cultural Diversity: Cultivating Racial Harmony Through Counselling, Group Analysis and Psychotherapy (2012) by M. J. Maher, published by Karnac.

Review by:
Emerald Davis

In his foreword Professor Ian Parker identifies the way in which the field of psychoanalysis has falsely made links between race and sex. He goes on to state that Western psychoanalysis has been “predominantly white” and this has resulted in a Eurocentric application of theory to other cultures. This he says is the context of Maher's book. She looks at attachment and its relevance to issues of race. However it is not just about evaluation, Maher is an action researcher and therefore seeks to bring about meaningful change.

She feels that racism and attachment are inherently linked, because racism arises from our experience of key attachment figures. Therefore, she argues, the experience of racism is defined by other early experiences, which may later be re-enacted.

Maher's book is organised into four sections. The first looks at the concept of institutionalised racism, its effects upon therapy, and the difficulties of separating actual racism and perceived difference. These are exemplified in case studies of the employment tribunals she fought as a result of her own experiences of racial discrimination. She holds up a psychoanalytic lens to these events and explores a variety of issues including victimisation and inter-racial discrimination. Sometimes the reality of a situation cannot be ignored and as the Freudian saying goes “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar” (p. 22). This made me reflect upon my own family experiences of “shadeism” where the lighter-skinned children were among the more favoured.

In Part Two Maher explores the dynamics of group analysis with black and white people together, touching upon her trainee years as a rare black therapist working with mostly white colleagues and clients.

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