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Rivera, P.S. (2017). ‘Freud's Speculations in Ethnology’: A Reflection on Anthropology's Encounter with Psychoanalysis. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 98(3):755-778.

(2017). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 98(3):755-778

History of Psychoanalysis

‘Freud's Speculations in Ethnology’: A Reflection on Anthropology's Encounter with Psychoanalysis

Patrick S. Rivera

(Accepted for publication 3 October 2016)

In the early 20th century, many analysts - Freud and Ernest Jones in particular - were confident that cultural anthropologists would demonstrate the universal nature of the Oedipus complex and other unconscious phenomena. Collaboration between the two disciplines, however, was undermined by a series of controversies surrounding the relationship between psychology and culture. This paper re-examines the three episodes that framed anthropology's early encounter with psychoanalysis, emphasizing the important works and their critical reception. Freud's Totem and Taboo began the interdisciplinary dialogue, but it was Bronislaw Malinowski's embrace of psychoanalysis - a development anticipated through a close reading of his personal diaries - that marked a turning point in relations between the two disciplines. Malinowski argued that an avuncular (rather than an Oedipal) complex existed in the Trobriand Islands. Ernest Jones' critical dismissal of this theory alienated Malinowski from psychoanalysis and ended ethnographers' serious exploration of Freudian thought. A subsequent ethnographic movement, ‘culture and personality,’ was erroneously seen by many anthropologists as a product of Freudian theory. When ‘culture and personality’ was abandoned, anthropologists believed that psychoanalysis had been discredited as well - a narrative that still informs the historiography of the discipline and its rejection of psychoanalytical theory.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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