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Harris, A. (2017). Intimacy: The Tank in the Bedroom. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 98(3):895-907.

(2017). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 98(3):895-907

Intimacy: The Tank in the Bedroom

Adrienne Harris


This title comes from an essay on the impact of political and, in particular, totalitarian regimes on intimate life. What I most want to convey today is that sexuality, gendered subjectivity, and intimacy are not simply personal and self contained, but always invaded by and cohabiting with forces of power and history, whether violent or seductive or dominating, or all at once.

Martin Mahler, a contemporary analyst in Prague, conjured up the clinical and social and professional dilemmas when Czech analysts and Czech citizens began to rehabilitate and recover psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic work, after the collapse of communism.

The Hungarian writer, György Konrád, once wrote (2009): Some time ago, a butcher lived in our village. He had a house on the corner of a steep street. There was a military base near the village. Once, the butcher's wife was changing bedding and a tank crashed through the bedroom wall because the road was ice and slippery. The front of the house was damaged. The woman was also somewhat damaged, but not too much. When I met the butcher next time, I asked him about what happened. “History came to us,” he said. The grotesque presence of a tank in the bedroom describes the ever-repeating experience of the loss of a safe and familiar home, a very “unheimlich” space in Central European experience.

(Mahler, 2014)

Whether as a bludgeoning force or a subtle glance, ‘History comes to us,’ in the neo liberal state, as in the totalitarian. Intimacy is the contradictory site of freedom and regulation. Intimate life, particularly the intimate life of the body, of gendered experience, and of sexuality, however delicate, sensually rich, secretive, archaic, or primitive, is always already infused by regulation, by violence, and by power. Power expressed in micro and macro forms at many social, familial, interpersonal, and political levels invades and constitutes, in conscious and unconscious forms, our most intimate and intricate psychic and somatic lives.


[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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