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Frosh, S. (2005). Fragments of Jewish Identity. Am. Imago, 62(2):179-191.

(2005). American Imago, 62(2):179-191

Fragments of Jewish Identity

Stephen Frosh

Jewish Textuality

It has sometimes been suggested that works on psychoanalysis, rather than being shelved in psychology sections in bookshops and libraries, should instead be listed under “Jewish Studies.” This is not quite as whimsical as it might seem: not only have psychoanalysts often been Jewish, but those who are not Jewish are frequently thought of as if they were. In addition, it can be argued that psychoanalysis is heavily indebted to, and informed by, “Jewish” perspectives, attitudes, ethics, and methodological approaches. Starting as it did with Freud, its origins were deeply embedded in the secular Jewish culture of the late nineteenth century, at a time in Europe when Jewish and other identities were being debated and undergoing radical change (Yerushalmi 1991). Anti-Semitism was a powerful political and cultural force, science was struggling with religion, romanticism was having its nostalgic last gasp, and the revolutionary movements of the twentieth century in politics, science, and the arts were being born. The Jews were both inside and outside Western society: newly “emancipated” and able to claim influential positions, yet still victims of social exclusion, anti-Semitic populism, and new forms of “racial” anti-Semitism that were gradually replacing the old Christian anti-Judaism.

Psychoanalysis emerged from this background as one significant expression of the “Jewish mind,” reflecting and analyzing Western civilization, revealing its irrational and intense underside.

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