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Clarke, S. (2001). From Aesthetics to Object Relations: Situating Klein in the Freudian ‘Uncanny’. Free Associations, 8(4):547-561.

(2001). Free Associations, 8(4):547-561

From Aesthetics to Object Relations: Situating Klein in the Freudian ‘Uncanny’

Simon Clarke

In this paper I argue that a Kleinian re-reading of Freud's concept of the ‘uncanny’ can leave us better placed to understand the quality of feelings involved in racism and ethnic hatred. My first introduction to Das Unheimlich was through the work of Max Horkhcimer and Theodor Adorno in Dialectic of Enlightenment (Horkheimer and Adorno, 1994, p. 182). Horkheimer and Adorno use the concept of the ‘uncanny’ and projection to explain the visceral and embodied nature of anti-Semitism; ‘what appears repellently alien is in fact all too familiar’. This paper attempts to situate Kleinian psychoanalytictheory within the context of Freud's ‘uncanny’ in order to provide an explanation of racism and ethnic hatred. I start with a brief examination of Horkheimer and Adorno's thesis before to returning to Freud's original work to try and unpick what he actually means by Das Unheimlich. I then go on to argue that a Kleinian interpretation of Freud's concept leaves us better placed to understand the violent and eruptive nature of racial violence and ethnic hatred. I argue that as an aesthetic, a quality of feeling, the uncanny is deeply entrenched in phantasy. Phantasy provides a vehicle for the construction of our own identity and that of others. Uncanniness is not produced by the repression of drives, but by the way in which we relate to our fellow human beings.

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