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Freud, Racism and Psychoanalysis

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What does Freud mean by this statement? Although strikingly poignant, how can psychoanalysis help us understand racism? This chapter is an exploration and interpretation of the way in which Freudian psychoanalytic theory can contribute to our understanding of conflict which may result in racism and exclusionary practices. I start with a general discussion of psychoanalytic theory before going on to focus on the theoretical underpinnings of Freud’s work in which I discuss his models of mind, the mechanisms of defence — sublimation, repression and projection — and finally Freud as both interpreter and philosopher. Freud has come under tremendous criticism for developing a pseudo-science, for not being scientific enough and indeed claiming that psychoanalysis is a science. This often distracts from Freud’s other qualities, as a thinker, as an interpreter of society and as a philosopher of mind. Using Freud’s monograph das Unheimlich, I will show this other side of Freud, whilst charting the development of a central concept in psychoanalytic thinking — projection. I argue that the ‘uncanny’ is central to our understanding of projection and the way in which we both perceive and treat others. To paraphrase Freud, ‘what appears repellently alien is in fact all too familiar’.


  • Social Theory
  • External Reality
  • Psychoanalytic Theory
  • Internal World
  • Frankfurt School

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It is always possible to bind together a considerable number of people in love, so long as there are other people left over to receive the manifestations of their aggressiveness.

(Freud, 1930: 114)

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© 2003 Simon Clarke

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Clarke, S. (2003). Freud, Racism and Psychoanalysis. In: Social Theory, Psychoanalysis and Racism. Palgrave, London.

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