CFP: For a Materialist Psychoanalysis Conference – Warwick

For a Materialist Psychoanalysis Conference

University of Warwick, May 8-9, 2015


Confirmed Keynote Speakers:

Dina Al-Kassim (University of British Columbia)

John Fletcher (University of Warwick)

Conference Organisers:

Daniel Katz and Christian Smith, Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies, University of Warwick

Call for Papers

The purpose of this conference is to consider the usefulness of psychoanalysis for political critique, as well as politically-oriented frameworks for reading cultural phenomena. Rather than view psychoanalysis as a transhistorical, universal paradigm for resolving the mysteries of the human in all their manifestations, the goal will be to explore how psychoanalytic inquiry provides a way into history, rather than an escape from it. In terms of the current global economic predicament, we hope to investigate how psychoanalysis can help us move beyond the limited “rational choice” theories of neo-liberal economics without replacing them with a potentially problematic form of socialist rationalism sometimes embraced by the left. How can we envisage an economically egalitarian, cooperative, and democratic society while acknowledging that the symptom and the unconscious are inexpugnable from all social constructions? How can psychoanalysis help us to respond to the historical lesson of the twentieth century in which so many explicitly Marxist experiments perpetuated relations of domination in other forms and spectacularly failed to produce the transformation of social relations which is anti-capitalism’s greatest promise?

The relationship between psychoanalysis and Marxism has been fraught with tension throughout its history. Some Marxists claim that psychoanalysis is not materialist. However, this assertion suffers from the undialectical assumption that psychoanalysis is a homogeneous system of thought. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are many strands of contending scholarship that fall under the umbrella term psychoanalysis. Some are more materialist than others. In fact, it is possible to imagine that psychoanalysis could be a tool for a critique of contradictions such as that between materialism and non-materialism. Similar to Marxism, psychoanalysis should provide the means for its own auto-critique.

To investigate these broad questions, we intend to examine the history of joint articulations of psychoanaltyic and progressive thought—specifically Marxist—in the hopes of constructing new paradigms for progressive thinking and action. In particular, this conference calls for papers that explore or theorise psychoanalysis as a materialist practice. In this regard, we look forward to work on figures, groupings, and tendencies such as Surrealism, Reich, the Frankfurt School, the Situationists, the Lacanian-Althusserian nexus, schizoanalysis, queer studies, feminism, post-colonial studies, and Žižek, among many others. We would also welcome papers on the relationship between psychoanalysis as an institution and its own left-wing, including the relationship of Freud and his circle to radical politics in Vienna and beyond.

The conference will be comprised of two main components:

1. Conference papers (May 9). Please submit 300-400 word proposals for 30-minute papers to both and by December 15, 2014.

2. Post-Graduate Student Workshops (May 8, Chaired by Dr. Christian Smith, attended by keynote speakers). These workshops are open to doctoral students and postdoctoral researchers. Papers will be distributed to all before the conference for critical reading. The seminars will consist of short summaries of each paper’s main argument and discussion between participants. One of the conference’s keynote speakers will participate in each discussion. To be considered for this workshop, please send an abstract of approximately 300 words to and by December 15, 2014.