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Steiner, R. (1994). 'The Tower of Babel' or 'After Babel in Contemporary Psychoanalysis'?—Some Historical and Theoretical Notes on the Linguistic and Cultural Strategies Implied by the Foundation of the International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, and on its Relevance Today. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 75:883-901.

(1994). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 75:883-901

'The Tower of Babel' or 'After Babel in Contemporary Psychoanalysis'?—Some Historical and Theoretical Notes on the Linguistic and Cultural Strategies Implied by the Foundation of the International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, and on its Relevance Today

Riccardo Steiner

ABSTRACT

The author uses private correspondence and documents referring to the foundation of the 'International Journal of Psycho-Analysis' and the 'Glossary' for translating Freud's work, to try to delineate the political and cultural strategy of Jones in founding and developing the 'International Journal of Psycho-Analysis'. Both strategies based on the wish to have administrative and cultural control of psychoanalysis in the English-speaking countries. In the end Jones and his colleagues succeeded in making the language they created the official language of the IPA; through control of Freud's translations, through the 'Glossary' and particularly through its diffusion in the 'Journal'. The author briefly illustrates the various cultural sources of this attempt and tries to show the similarities between the project of Jones and the first generation of pioneers of psychoanalysis in Great Britain and the myth of the tower of Babel—one of its most important foundation stones being the 'International Journal'. Finally, the author stresses that those issues are still extremely alive in psychoanalysis today. But, confronted with the near-Babel of languages of contemporary psychoanalysis, can we still imply the existence of this universal common language and use it? Can the 'International Journal' still maintain its hegemony? Do we really understand each other even when we use the same technical terminology in English? Or shall we accept that today we should live without a tower of Babel in psychoanalysis? The author concludes that there is some hope, provided that we do not pursue meanings to the forbidden limit of the absolute.

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