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The Œdipus complex, crystallizer of the debate between psychoanalysis and anthropology

The Œdipus complex, crystallizer of the debate between psychoanalysis and anthropology

International Journal of Psycho-Analysis 92(4): 985-1007

The way that anthropologists understand the Oedipus complex, in particular, is a good example of how they understand psychoanalysis in general. Indeed, it has crystallized a set of reactions marked by ignorance, misunderstanding, distortion and screening out and at the same time has provoked suspicion among anthropologists as to psychoanalysis, according to the preconceptions of the various schools of thought and authors implied, and this from the very first contacts up to nowadays. In what way did the psychoanalysts contribute to this and what representation did they, in turn, elaborate of anthropology? The purpose of this paper is to expose the epistemological and historical conditions of the emergence of this debate, and then to develop it by following chronology up to the 1950s and 1960s, while differentiating three major cultural areas, Great Britain, the USA and France, in order to get a clearer picture. From that point on, we will try to diversify our inquiry and to formulate some interpretative hypotheses. In particular, we think that a traumatic event may have inaugurated and organized the history of the relationship between the two disciplines, producing a situation of acculturation with multiple impacts, if we identify them with two cultures coming into contact: what is at stake here is Totem and Taboo in which Freud carries through the first major psychoanalytical approach of the interpretation of ethnographic facts, that leads him to transplant the universality of the Oedipus complex to the very root of the first social institutions and to pinpoint the presence of unconscious processes in their genesis.

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Accession: 056538537

Download citation: RISBibTeXText

PMID: 21843245

DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-8315.2011.00407.x

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