Meeting group

Thursday February 22nd : We will have the pleasure to hear Prof. Dr. Mischa Suter (Geneva Graduate Institute): Psychoanalysis in 1960s West Africa: Universality and Particularity at the End of Empire

My talk draws on research for a book that I am writing on the entwined history of psychonalysis and decolonization. To better understand decolonization, I argue, it is useful to see how psychoanalysis, a distinct conception of the modern subject, probed its limits in Africa – at a moment when, with decolonization, the question of what a subject was had unprecedented political-epistemological charge and when psychoanalysis’ prestige within the sciences was at a high point. The argument is pursued through two teams of analysts who conducted psychoanalytic conversations in early 1960s Mali and Senegal, respectively: a Swiss group around Paul Parin and a French couple, Marie-Cécile and Edmond Ortigues. The two teams’ insistence on individual psychoanalytic cases diverged from the holistic notion of a “basic personality structure” common in anthropology at the time. With regards to the respective goals of analysis the two teams represented a chiasm: while Parin et al. started from exoticized African otherness to arrive at a notion of common humanity, the Ortigues set out from a universalist-structuralist notion of the psyche to then map a distinct African epistemology of mental states. I argue that the two teams’ markedly different agendas impacted in Europe when, under the entwined impact of decolonization and the sexual revolution, a massive pluralization of subject positions took place.

The book in progress is part of a group project on the history of ethnopsychology in the era of decolonization, sponsored by the Swiss National Science Foundation. You can find more information on the group project here:

Friday 23rd June 2023 : Alternative writing. We discussed how to bring research into the field of madness to a wider audience, using a variety of media: literature, comics, video, audio, etc. While many experiences are brought to our attention in France, we have less visibility in other contexts, and perhaps even less on the African continent. Here again, this raises many questions about the feasibility of these “alternative writings” and the specific ethical aspects they raise. With Chloé Despax (sound artist, and Marion Gronier (photographer,

Thursday 16th March 2023 : We will have the pleasure to hear Annigje Van Dijk‘s talk about vulnerability in anthropological research on mental health: How to write about people’s vulnerabilities? How to think about the gap between the way they present themselves and what we see, and how to write about it respectfully and truthfully? ‘Vulnerable writing’ – a form of writing that does not try to tell ‘one story’ but tries to hold different storylines and to make room for uncertainty/not-knowing – could be part of the solution.

Friday 25th November 2022 : Session on Ethics and Methodology : presentation of Cecilia Dracchio about the question of « Ethnographical refusal ». Discussion by Gina Aït Mehdi. This session explored 2 cases studies (by Cecilia and Gina) in order to launch a collective discussion on everyday ethic on our field trip, the question of refusal but also a discussion on different methodologies used and ethical issues raised by anthropologists and historians working on mental health on the African Continent

Spring 2022 : 1st meeting of the project group (online). “Get to know » session to share our common interest, and collective project we want to build together

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