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Cooper, A. Baistow, K. Farrar, M. (1993). ‘Psychoanalysis and the Public Sphere’ 1992: three responses. Free Associations, 4(2):295-300.

(1993). Free Associations, 4(2):295-300

‘Psychoanalysis and the Public Sphere’ 1992: three responses

Andrew Cooper, Karen Baistow and Max Farrar


I have always thought of the ‘Psychoanalysis and the Public Sphere’ conference as above all a theatrical experience, and none the worse for that. No doubt this attitude has been nourished by three or four years of involvement as an organizer. Months of planning, auditioning, engaging and losing star players, publicity, mental rehearsal, even selecting understudies — and then the helpless days and hours before the opening, when the unique and unpredictable chemistry of speakers, their themes, and the participating audience goes to work. Happily, beyond this there is no text, and with the established structure of parallel streams of papers and a dozen or so small discussion groups, no two people attend quite the same conference. So while it is tempting to abandon all pretence at objectivity or summary in this report, I nevertheless offer some thoughts on the distinctive character of last year's experience, as well as some second-hand reactions and personal reflections.

The headline theme of the conference — ‘Power and Difference’ — and the three streams of papers on ‘Gender and Sexuality’, ‘Race, Ethnicity and Nation’ and ‘Marginalization and Mental Disorder’ probably encouraged greater specificity of content and a sharper overall focus on political perspectives than in previous years. Certainly they encouraged a fresh influx of both speakers and participants, with more black people and practitioners from the community mental health arena in evidence.

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