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Of Course I'm Not A Racist ... But

The Letter, Issue 27, Spring 2003, Pages 113 - 121


OF COURSE I'M NOT A RACIST ... BUT*

Helen Sheehan


On the 3rd December 1969 Lacan was questioned by a member of a rather rowdy audience of over 800 people at the University of Vincennes, where he gave his first impromptu lecture.

The question ran as follows 'People talk about a New Society. Will psychoanalysis have a function in that New Society and what will it be like'?[1]

The 60's in general and in particular the late 60's had witnessed an increasing call for new freedoms. For example the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association had been founded in 1967. By 1968, the activists among them, most notably Bernadette Devlin, were identifying with the confrontational political tactics made popular in France, Germany and America. Student revolt was the order of the day and the human cry of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity echoed throughout the troubled spots of our globe.

This passion for these ideals are still raging the world over and the question posed by that student in 1969 is perhaps even more relevant today, where these ideals once again lead to sacrifice and to death. The question then becomes does our particular discipline, psychoanalysis, have anything new to say to such calls for a newer, freer Society? As Charles Melman has remarked:

Psychoanalysts in a more or less intuitive way, consider that the field of their responsibility comes to a halt at the boundary of the family organisation and that they do not have to make any pronouncement, to become engaged when they are challenged by the Social Field.[2]

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