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Leary, K. (1997). Race in Psychoanalytic Space. Gender and Psychoanalysis, 2(2):157-172.

(1997). Gender and Psychoanalysis, 2(2):157-172

Race in Psychoanalytic Space

Kimberlyn Leary, Ph.D.

The aim of this paper is to expand the psychoanalytic critique of gender and gender identity to considerations of race and racial identity. I will argue that effective conceptualizations of race exist within a conceptual tension similar to that newly established around the category of gender in psychoanalytic gender theory (Dimen, 1991). Instead of focusing on the contents of gendered experience, these theorists understand gender to reflect a set of negotiations and relations. Many analytic theorists and clinicians unwittingly tend to gravitate to the kind of either-or thinking about race formerly associated with gender theory. This occurs when race is discussed in terms of its material reality alone or, conversely, when race is treated as referencing only social constructions. In my view, such thinking falsely simplifies the complexities of understanding the intrapsychic and interpersonal milieu in which race is complexly situated. For the theorist and the clinician, the more difficult position is to locate race within the tension between these poles. The paper will also discuss the difficulty of sustaining such a dialectic in the therapeutic process through the use of a clinical illustration.

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