This study consists of a twofold, interrelated enquiry: the Orientalism of psychoanalysis and the psychoanalysis of Orientalism – bringing into conversation Sigmund Freud and Edward Said and, thereby, the founding texts of psychoanalysis and postcolonial studies. The immediate object of this exploration is the “Freudian Orient” and we thus begin by tracing the strong Orientalist presence in Freud’s writings with examples from his early as well as later correspondence, his diaries, and his psychological works.
Following these examples of “manifest” Orientalism, we will pursue more “latent” meanings by engaging two of Freud’s favorite metaphors: archaeology and travel. Whereas the former soon uncovers a veritable porta Orientis, conducting to an external Orient, the latter reveals an internalised Orient traversed by Jewishness, anti-Semitism and the Bible.
Unveiling the figure of Moses shows how Freud’s strategy to resist anti-Semitic Orientalism by way of universalist reversal is only partially successful as he cannot extricate himself from the historical assumptions of that discourse. Nonetheless, it is the revolutionary concept of the unstable subject posited by Freudian psychoanalysis which enables a more nuanced understanding of the vicissitudes of Freud’s own Orientalist discourse.
Reviews and Endorsements:
‘Frank F. Scherer’s meticulous accounting of the fate of Freud’s Orient – through its metaphors, reaction formations, conflicts, repression, and return – opens the intricacies of debates on Freud today with speculations on Freud’s transpositions of his own confrontation with anti-Semitism. Through a careful reading of the reception of the Freudian Archive and its translation erasures, Scherer’s provocative thesis takes shape: Freud transformed European debates against the Oriental and the Jew into the emotional landscape of psychoanalysis. Oriental discourse then serves as both touchstones for the development of Freud’s psychoanalytic concepts and as Freud’s resistance to the anti-Semitism of his time. Scherer’s symptomatic reading of psychoanalytic sensibilities contra post-colonial history presents new theories for exposing the ambivalent reception of an archaeology of antiquity with the psychoanalytic destiny of “The Jewish Question”.’
- Deborah Britzman, Distinguished Research Professor, York University, Toronto and author of A Psychoanalyst in the Classroom: On the Human Condition in Education
‘The multicultural empire of Freud studies is engaged in continual skirmishes along its frontier with Judaism and orientalism. Frank F. Scherer brings this contested border to the centre of our attention. In blazing his trail, or via regia, through psychoanalytic historiography, he exposes new conceptual landscapes. And, like the best travellers, he makes us realize that what was apparently our most familiar territory opens into terra incognita.’
- Michael Molnar, former director of the Freud Museum, London, and author of Looking Through Freud’s Photos
About the Author:
Frank F. Scherer, PhD, teaches in the Department of Communication Studies at York University, Toronto, Canada. He is author of 'UFA Orientalism - The "Orient" in Early German Film: Lubitsch and May' in Cinema Journal, Issue 1 (2012); 'Freud’s Turkey: Psychoanalysis and the Vicissitudes of Orientalism' in Veronika Bernard et. al. (eds.) Breaking the Stereotype: From Orient and Occident to a Mutual Understanding of Images (2011); 'Sanfancón: Orientalism, Self-Orientalization, and Chinese Religion in Cuba' in Patrick Taylor (ed.), Nation Dance: Religion, Identity and Cultural Difference in the Caribbean (2001).