Untangling Racialized Fantasies for Clinical Practice and Writing

November 1-3, 2024

The history of psychoanalysis demonstrates a profound mixture of struggles with race and racism. Founded in the hotbed of late Victorian racism and antisemitism, Freud made the then-radical argument that blood and genetics do not determine intellectual, moral, or emotional character. At the same time, in work such as Civilization and Its Discontents (1930/2010), he embraced anthropological and sociological beliefs of the time which cast inhabitants of much of the non-Northern world as primitives and less developed, enshrining non-Europeans in fantasized roles of alien other and romanticized bearers of unsuppressed id.

“Psychoanalysis and related disciplines,” notes Dorothy Evans Holmes in her 2021 article, I Do Not Have a Racist Bone in My Body: Psychoanalytic Perspectives on What is Lost and Not Mourned in Our Culture’s Persistent Racism, “have gone along with the general societal trend to disown the destructiveness of racism in its manifold forms, affecting all our lives” (p. 240). Simultaneously, as Holmes and many others note, psychoanalysis has the tools to offer profound insights into the workings of racism in individual psyches and in society more broadly.

This weekend, we make use of writing and of psychoanalytic insights and tools to explore the persistence of racialized othering and violence and the role that fantasies and experiences of race play in society and in own lives and work. We will interrogate common but often unanalyzed racial fantasies and their entanglements with self, other, culture, history, desire, and power. We will work to understand how racialized fantasies participate in clinical practice and identify how psychoanalysis as both a set of concepts and a practice may be helpful for better understanding and transforming self and society in relation to enactments of racial fantasies. Finally, we will consider how writing can help us to reflect upon and contribute to the transformation of our sense of racial selfness and otherness, supporting both personal and cultural insight and transformation toward a more loving, sustaining, and equitable society and world.

Coordinator: Gail Boldt and Pauli Badenhorst


PAULI BADENHORST is an assistant professor in the Department of Teaching & Learning at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. His research draws from psychoanalytic and Black antiracist scholarship to focus on questions such as “How are raced identity and racism related to pleasure? What is the role of emotion in the constitution and enactment of race? How are racialized Others compensatively used to generate and sustain identities and ideologies in localized sociopolitical contexts? What are the effects of climate change on materially-constituted racialized subjectivity?” Ultimately, in Pauli’s work there resides great longing for deep and urgent relational antiracism work across schools and society. He is the author of Predatory White Antiracism, published in 2021 in Psychoanalysis, Culture, and Society.

 LAUREN LEVINE is Joint Editor-in-Chief of Psychoanalytic Dialogues. She is on the Faculty of NYU Postdoctoral Program in Psychoanalysis, and The Stephen Mitchell Relational Study Center. She is Visiting Faculty at the Institute for Relational Psychotherapy in Athens, Greece, and the Tampa Bay Psychoanalytic Society. She is a psychoanalyst in private practice in NYC. In her new book, Risking Intimacy: Mutual Vulnerability and Creative Transformation in Psychoanalysis, Dr. Levine explores the transformative power of stories and storytelling to create shared symbolic meaning and coherence out of ungrieved loss and trauma. She considers the impact of trauma and creativity on the challenge of creating one’s own coherent story, resonant with both personal authenticity and a shared sense of culture and history.

ZAKES MDA, the pen-name of Dr. Zanemvula Kizito Gatyeni Mda, is an American-African writer, painter, and music composer. He has published 27 books, including novels and collections of  plays and poetry. His writing has won a number of awards including the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Africa, the Sunday Times Literary Prize, the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Legacy Award, the University of Johannesburg Literary Prize, and the American Library Association Notable Book.  His novel Cion, set in southeast Ohio, was nominated for the NAACP Image Award.  His memoir titled Sometimes there is a Void: Memoirs of an Outsider was the New York Times Notable Book and editors’ choice for 2012. It is recommended reading by many psychotherapists to their male clients.

DIONNE POWELL, MD is a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst in private practice.  She is the author of, among other articles, the JAPA prize winning article, Race, African Americans, and Psychoanalysis: Collective Silence in the Therapeutic Situation.  Dr. Powell has received numerous awards for her teaching including the American Psychoanalytic Association Candidate’s Council 2020-2021 Master Teacher Award. She is a training and supervising psychoanalyst at Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research, and the Psychoanalytic Association of New York Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College, founding member of Black Psychoanalysts Speak and is co-chair of the Holmes Commission for Racial Equity in Psychoanalysis (APsaA sponsored).