This book investigates recent conflictual events on college and university campuses, including protests directed at university leaders deemed victimizers, debates over the inclusion of “trigger warnings” on course materials, demands for “safe spaces,” denials of venue to controversial speakers, rejections of free speech as a norm governing campus interactions, and calls for the resignation or expulsion of students, faculty, and administrators.
The authors suggest that such conflicts in universities express, with particular poignancy, difficulties encountered in the process of identity-formation, difficulties that include the management of ambivalent desires and fantasies concerning the relations between the ideal of self-determination and the protection offered by groups, the interpretation of encounters with difference, the movement from life in the family to life in civil society, and the need to find safety in the inner world as well as danger in the world outside.
What makes the links between university-based conflict and the vicissitudes of identity difficult to see is that most controversies have been marked by efforts to ignore or disguise experiences in individuals’ inner worlds and to focus, instead, on groups, group identities, and group fantasies about victimization that offer collective (social) defenses. A Dangerous Place to Be strives to clarify these links by applying psychoanalytic insights to several cases emblematic of recent university conflicts, revealing them to be enactments of inner dramas involving the discovery of difference in the self and in others.
About the Authors:
Matthew H. Bowker is Clinical Assistant Professor of Humanities at Medaille College in Buffalo, NY. Educated at Columbia University and the University of Maryland, College Park, he brings psychoanalytic, literary, and intellectual-historical approaches to topics in political theory. He has published numerous papers on social theory, ethics, and pedagogy and is the author of several books on the psycho-politics of contemporary life, including: Ideologies of Experience: Trauma, Failure, Deprivation, and the Abandonment of the Self, D.W. Winnicott and Political Theory: Recentering the Subject (with A. Buzby), Rethinking the Politics of Absurdity: Albert Camus, Postmodernity, and the Survival of Innocence, Escargotesque, or, What Is Experience?, Albert Camus and the Political Philosophy of the Absurd: Ambivalence, Resistance, and Creativity, and Ostranenie: On Shame and Knowing.
David P. Levine is Professor Emeritus in the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. He holds a PhD in economics from Yale University and a Certificate in Psychoanalytic Scholarship from the Colorado Center for Psychoanalytic Studies. Prior to his retirement, he held academic positions at Yale University and the University of Denver. In addition to his work in political economy, he has published numerous books in the field of applied psychoanalysis, including most recently Psychoanalysis, Society, and the Inner World: On Embedded Meaning in Politics and Social Conflict, Psychoanalytic Studies of Creativity, Greed, and Fine Art: Making Contact with the Self, Object Relations, Work, and the Self, The Capacity for Civic Engagement: Public and Private Worlds of the Self, and The Capacity for Ethical Conduct: On Psychic Existence and the Way We Relate to Others. He is a member of the International Society for the Psychoanalytic Study of Organizations and served for several years as a member of the Executive Board of the Colorado Society for Psychology and Psychoanalysis.