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Treacher, A. (2000). Ethnicity, psychoanalysis and cultural studies: a review essay. Free Associations, 7(4):113-126.

(2000). Free Associations, 7(4):113-126

Ethnicity, psychoanalysis and cultural studies: a review essay

Amal Treacher

It is Difficult to address questions surrounding ethnicity and relations between peoples of different cultures and colours because the issues are subtle and pervasive. Analysis is easier if racism as a category and system of thought can be drawn upon, but, as Reina Lewis points out, mostly we are not ‘bad racists or good sisters (or brothers) under the skin’. Her statement raises sharply problematic questions of how we as individuals are shaped by, and respond to, an era of post-colonial ideology and relations. The theoretical challenge, for some, is centred on how to produce an analysis in which people's emotional and material investments and responsibilities in terms of ethnicity are recognised and fully understood. Such an analysis will be concerned with how these processes of recognition can take place within a particular social and political context in order to understand how we are formed by, and place ourselves within, the psychic tension of similarity and difference to others. There is a further tension between the desire to be recognised as a person of colour and the simultaneous wish for this not to be recognised. This is a vexed negotiation for all those involved. True recognition requires a difference/similarity spectrum, and people can be over-or under-invested, fetished or marginalised by others in terms of their colour.

This review essay is concerned with developing a dialogue between psychoanalytic theory and some work undertaken within a Cultural Studies framework. It traces some theoretical strands concerned with ‘race’ and ethnicity in order to engage with this work before moving towards a richer analysis.

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