Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society

, Volume 22, Issue 4, pp 383–400 | Cite as

“Creative maladjustment” in the West Baltimore uprising

  • Katherine Glanz
Original Article


This article looks to psychoanalytic theory to underscore how actions of collective refusal can disrupt systems of racial injustice. Specifically, I focus on the recent uprising in West Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray, a black man killed while in police custody. I elaborate on Martin Luther King Jr.’s notion of “creative maladjustment” to reject the media’s depiction of the Baltimore uprising as indicative of pathology within the community and instead theorize the event as conducive to ethical and social change. Through King’s notion of “creative maladjustment” and a Lacanian notion of ethics, I contend that Baltimore dissidents have challenged the normalcy of structural racism, initiating a transformation in America’s approach to race-based dispossession, state violence, and mass incarceration.


Martin Luther King Jr. Freddie Gray Baltimore psychoanalysis urban uprising 


  1. Anderson, J. (2015) Baltimore hits midyear mark with 144 homicides. Baltimore Sun., 1 July, accessed 10 February 2017.
  2. Black Lives Matter. (2015) About #BlackLivesMatter., accessed 1 August 2016.
  3. Coates, T.-N. (2015) Between the World and Me. New York: Penguin Random House.Google Scholar
  4. Fanon, F. (1967) Black Skin, White Masks. New York: Grove Press.Google Scholar
  5. Freud, S. (1930/1961) Civilization and Its Discontents. Standard Edition (Vol. 21, pp. 57–146). London: Hogarth Press.Google Scholar
  6. Gorman, R. (2015) NAACP President on Baltimore Riots: “Burning businesses and homes and buildings in your own community is like putting a gun to your own head.” Business Insider., 28 April, accessed 10 February 2017.
  7. Gude, S. (2015) Why Baltimore rebelled. Jacobin., 28 April, accessed 10 February 2017.
  8. Hazzard, D. (2015) What I witnessed in Baltimore. Black Youth Project: University of Chicago Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture., 30 April, accessed 10 February 2017.
  9. Hegel, G.W.F. (1807/1977) Phenomenology of Spirit. Translated by A.V. Miller. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Johnston, D.C. (2015) Baltimore riots speak the language of the dispossessed., 29 April, accessed 10 February 2017.
  11. King Jr., M.L. (1967) The role of the behavioral scientist in the Civil Rights Movement. Address to The American Psychological Association’s Annual Convention from The American Psychological Association. Washington, DC., September, accessed 10 February 2017.
  12. Lacan, J. (1974) Interview with Emilio Granzotto. Panorama., accessed 10 February 2017.
  13. Lacan, J. (1992) The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, 1959-1960. Edited by J.-A. Miller. Translated by D. Porter. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  14. Lewis, P., Swaine, J. and Jacobs, B. (2015) “This is not the justice we seek”: Sorrow in Baltimore as grief turns into riots. The Guardian, US Edition., 28 April, accessed 10 February 2017.
  15. Maté, A. (2015) “You can replace property, you can’t replace a life”: Voices of the unheard in the Baltimore streets. Democracy Now., 29 April, accessed 10 February 2017.
  16. Myers, A. and Foreman Jr., T. (2015) The National Guard enters the streets of Baltimore. Business Insider., 28 April, accessed 10 February 2017.
  17. Stavrakakis, Y. (1999) Lacan and the Political. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  18. Taylor, K.-Y. (2016) From #blacklivesmatter to Black Liberation. Chicago: Haymarket Books.Google Scholar
  19. Watkins, D. (2015) The Beast Side: Living (and Dying) While Black in America. New York: Hot Books.Google Scholar
  20. Workneh, L. (2015) #BlackLivesMatter co-founders on Baltimore uprisings: “We stand in solidarity.” The Huffington Post., 29 April, accessed 10 February 2017.
  21. Žižek, S. (1989) The Sublime Object of Ideology. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  22. Žižek, S. (2005) Interrogating the Real. Edited by R. Butler and S. Stevens. London: Continuum.Google Scholar
  23. Zupančič, A. (2000) Ethics of the Real: Kant, Lacan. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  24. Zupančič, A. (2008) The Odd One In: On Comedy. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceJohns Hopkins UniversityAustinUSA

Personalised recommendations