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Watermeyer, B. (2001). Blindness, Attachment, and Self: Psychoanalysis and Ideology. Free Associations, 9(1):152-167.

(2001). Free Associations, 9(1):152-167

Blindness, Attachment, and Self: Psychoanalysis and Ideology

Brian Watermeyer

If Psychoanalysis is to remain useful in the understanding of society and human development, it is essential that debates about the mode of application of the discipline to all areas of enquiry be vigorous and critical. In this article I attempt to demonstrate this by arguing that an important contribution to psychoanalytic thinking about congenital blindness is flawed by reification. The theoretical propositions under critique embody an epistemological dualism between ‘disabled’ and ‘nondisabled’ experience, effectively negating the strength of the psychoanalytic frame of reference, which lies in its extraordinary ability to allow, hear and hold the infinite diversity of experience.

I introduce the argument by considering briefly the relationship between psychoanalysis and disability, before turning to a consideration of the issue of blindness in particular. I then critically examine the work of Kenneth Wright (1991), before arguing in the conclusion for a psychoanalytic approach more grounded in an explicit understanding of the interrelationship between ideology and theory.

Disability and Psychoanalysis

The distinction in contemporary society between two groups of people — the ‘disabled’ and the ‘not disabled’ — has persuasively been shown to be politically determined and not necessarily based on criteria related directly to body structure and function (Ingstad & White, 1995; Marks, 1999; Murphy, 1995; Wendell, 1996). This political construction obscures and justifies the systematic exclusion and disadvantage of persons objectified as damaged and different (Abberley, 1987; Barnes, 1990; Lunt & Thornton, 1994; Marks, 1999; Oliver, 1986, 1990).

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