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Political FreudA History$
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Eli Zaretsky

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780231172448

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231172448.001.0001

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Beyond the Blues

Beyond the Blues

The Racial Unconscious and Collective Memory

(p.38) 2 Beyond the Blues
Political Freud

Eli Zaretsky

Columbia University Press

This chapter examines the radical African American and Afro-Caribbean intellectuals who drew on the Freudian critique of the father complex, in the form of the master-slave relationship, in order to build a collective memory in the Black community. Psychoanalytic thought was central to three great episodes of African American and Afro-Caribbean radicalism that preceded the civil rights movement: the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, the Popular Front of the 1930s, and the existentialist-inflected anticolonial and postcolonial paradigm that emerged after World War II. In each case, political Freudianism aimed less at a theory of racism than at uncovering the memory of the slave experience and its aftermath. In each case an African American or Afro-Caribbean intellectual was drawing on Freud not just to probe the damage to the inner world left behind by slavery and colonialism but to turn that reconstructed memory toward politics.

Keywords:   Freud, Freudianism, Totalitarianism, Consumerism, mass psychology, the unconscious

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