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Bushra, A. (2009). The Strangeness of Passing: Commentary on Paper by Christopher Bonovitz. Psychoanal. Dial., 19(4):442-449.

(2009). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 19(4):442-449

The Strangeness of Passing: Commentary on Paper by Christopher Bonovitz

Annabella Bushra, Ph.D.

Christopher Bonovitz gives us a rich landscape of the theoretical, historical, and relational aspects of his work with his mixed-race patient. In my response I explore what seems missing: a stronger sense of the patient as a person, more of her own history in her family, more of the clinical back and forth with her therapist, a sense of what is being played out in the transference, and particularly what “passing” is for her. I show how his choices about how to think about her story and how to tell it are oversaturated with awareness of identity and race at the expense of the basic human relationship. In the face of such racial anxiety, there is a pull to rely too strongly on countertransference as a way to gain privileged access to knowledge about the other. I attribute many of these problems to the inescapable power of race in our culture. Furthermore, I address the themes of hatred, silence, secrecy and transgression as they relate to the history of transgenerational trauma for this patient and invite our broadening our awareness about how they play out in the therapeutic process. We are faced with the difficult, yet the essential task of holding and living out the patient's anger and outrage at the racial hatred that has been endured.

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