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Kurtz, S.A. (1996). Analysis uptown. Free Associations, 6(4):578-588.

(1996). Free Associations, 6(4):578-588

Analysis uptown

Stephen A. Kurtz

I would like to speak to you today about one small example of bringing psychoanalytic care to a poor community. Quite incidentally, because of its success, the old controversy about whether it's possible for poor people to make use of psychoanalysis can finally be settled: since it is happening, it must be possible. Of course, the question may then shift to whether what's being called ‘psychoanalysis’ in this context deserves the name. Fortunately for the richness of the field, that question cannot be answered. No group of psychoanalysts now has the power to impose one definition, and so a great many systems flourish side by side, linked by what Wittgenstein called ‘family resemblance.’ The siblings may squabble, but there is no Papa to decide amongst them.

One thing more. I had thought to begin by placing the project I am about to describe within its historical context. There actually is a history of attempts to make psychoanalysis available to poor people, though it constitutes little more than a footnote. If these attempts had brought the profession to inner-city schools and churches—that is, to people who distrust clinics and who rarely leave their neighborhoods—they might have constituted more than a footnote. But in any case, I knew very little of that history when I began and it was never my inspiration. More importantly, such a nod toward received academic practice is subtly corrosive—part of the process that makes communicating about our work too often stilted and recondite.

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