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Fonseca, C. (1982). Claudia Fonseca on 'The Gossiping Analyst'. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 9:355-357.

(1982). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 9:355-357

Claudia Fonseca on 'The Gossiping Analyst'

Claudia Fonseca

Dear SIR,

In reading Stanley Olinick's 'The gossiping analyst' (Int. Rev. Psycho-Anal., 1980, 7: 439–445), I could not help feeling some misgivings. He builds his argument, as I understand it, on a series of dichotomies distinguishing first 'scientific' from 'social' exchange and then, within the latter category, 'innocent' phatic communication from gossip. This theoretical framework suffers, I believe, from unexamined class- and sex-bound biases and, for reasons I will explain below, is inadequate for probing the various subtleties of 'gossip'. Granted, my frame of reference is different from Olinick's as I am not an analyst. But as an anthropologist particularly drawn to field research, I have been privy to many a soul-searching confidence. And, having affirmed on more than one occasion that anthropologists are born gossips, I feel compelled to point out certain ambiguities and omissions in Olinick's article. Specifically, in creating a system of classification which seems to include only scientific exchange, innocuous phatic communication and malicious gossip, he leaves little space for a positive sort of exchange (more acceptable among lower- than middle-class populations) wherein two people take pleasure in speaking of a third, be they in a social or professional setting.

Although the general intent of Olinick's article is clear, questionable elements in his argument may lend themselves to unintended interpretations. For example, the author states at the outset of the article that gossip is potentially harmful and always motivated, at least in part, by envy.

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