2018 – Routledge, 160 pages
Unconscious Incarnations considers the status of the body in psychoanalytic theory and practice, bringing Freud and Lacan into conversation with continental philosophy to explore the heterogeneity of embodied life. By doing so, the body is no longer merely an object of scientific inquiry but also a lived body, a source of excessive intuition and affectivity, and a raw animality distinct from mere materiality.
The contributors to this volume consist of philosophers, psychoanalytic scholars, and practitioners whose interdisciplinary explorations reformulate traditional psychoanalytic concepts such as trauma, healing, desire, subjectivity, and the unconscious. Collectively, they build toward the conclusion that phenomenologies of embodiment move psychoanalytic theory and practice away from representationalist models and toward an incarnational approach to psychic life. Under such a carnal horizon, trauma manifests as wounds and scars, therapy as touch, subjectivity as bodily boundedness, and the unconscious ‘real’ as an excessive remainder of flesh.
Unconscious incarnations signal events where the unsignifiable appears among signifiers, the invisible within the visible, and absence within presence. In sum: where the flesh becomes word and the word retains its flesh.
Unconscious Incarnations seeks to evoke this incarnational approach in order to break through tacit taboos toward the body in psychology and psychoanalysis. This interdisciplinary work will appeal greatly to psychoanalysts and psychoanalytic psychotherapists as well as philosophy scholars and clinical psychologists.
Recent scholarship has inquired into the socio-historical, discursive genesis of trauma. Trauma and the Ontology of the Modern Subject, however, seeks what has not been actualized in trauma studies – that is, how the necessity and unassailable intensity of trauma is fastened to its historical emergence. We must ask not only what trauma means for the individual person’s biography, but also what it means to be the historical subject of trauma. In other words, how does being human in this current period of history implicate one’s lived possibilities that are threatened, and perhaps framed, through trauma? Foucauldian sensibilities inform a critical and structural analysis that is hermeneutically grounded.
Drawing on the history of ideas and on Lacan’s work in particular, John L. Roberts argues that what we mean by trauma has developed over time, and that it is intimately tied with an ontology of the subject; that is to say, what it is to be, and means to be human. He argues that modern subjectivity – as articulated by Heidegger, Levinas, and Lacan – is structurally traumatic, founded in its finitude as self-withdrawal in time, its temporal self-absence becoming the very conditions for agency, truth and knowledge. The book also argues that this fractured temporal horizon – as an effect of an interrupting Otherness or alterity – is obscured through the discourses and technologies of the psy-disciplines (psychiatry, psychology, and psychotherapy). Consideration is given to social, political, and economic consequences of this concealment.
Trauma and the Ontology of the Modern Subject will be of enduring interest to psychoanalysts and psychotherapists as well as scholars of philosophy and cultural studies.