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Biran, H. Chattopadhyay, G.P. (1997). The burden of the barbarian within. Free Associations, 7(2):151-170.

(1997). Free Associations, 7(2):151-170

The burden of the barbarian within

Hanna Biran and Gouranga P. Chattopadhyay


The Idea to Write this joint article was born in Australia, at the international conference, held at Lorne in August 1993. The title of the conference was ‘International Group Relations and Scientific Conference: Exploring Global Social Dynamics’. A short while before he went to the conference, Chattopadhyay had a dream which left him with an uncomfortable feeling. He felt that unless he was especially careful in defining his role in the conference and adhering to it, he was likely to be reduced to a token black participant.

That dream became an unpleasant reality for the two of us in the course of the conference. It became clear that at least for a number of participants, we had entered an exclusively Anglo-Saxon territory. This conference was held according to the Tavistock tradition. All the participants were identified by their work in the field of group relations. There were some 80 participants in the conference, the majority of whom came from English-speaking countries, mainly the UK, the US and Australia. English was also the only language spoken in the conference, in spite of its being an international one. The atmosphere and politics of the conference emphasized the investigation of the real and imaginary relationships among these three aforementioned centres represented in it, and between these and the others present in the conference.

A large group of professionals who arrived from London, the birthplace of the Tavistock tradition and the place where Bion had created the fundamentals of his theoretical framework, seemed to assume a high symbolic value within the conference.

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