In the psychoanalysis of infants and children, the incursion of psychic trauma is not located in a repressed and buried past, as in the analysis of adult patients, but becomes a matter of urgent contemporaneity. Given this shift of temporal focus, might the theories and praxis of child psychoanalysis be particularly attuned to the historical traumas contemporaneous to the early years of the discipline itself?
Founded and developed in the period leading up to and during the Second World War, the specialized field of child psychoanalysis emerged in a time when members of psychoanalytic institutions and their families would be faced with the threat of genocide and exile. Against this backdrop, Arielle Friend seeks to situate how analysts who began working with children during this time, in particular Anna Freud and Melanie Klein—both born and raised in Vienna around 1890—directly and indirectly theorize the effects of the political violence to which they and their young patients were exposed. Childhood, in their work, emerges as a site of fragile and potentially thwarted entry into a hostile and existentially silencing symbolic order—but in very different ways. The fraught differences between these thinkers’ imaginaries of child- hood subjectivity not only draw attention to the political exigency of their theories, but also reveal their profound engagement with the problems at stake in the precarious survival of their discipline.
Arielle Friend is a Ph.D. student in the German Language and Literature Program at Rutgers University (New Jersey), where she also taught from 2018 to 2022. Her research interests include psychoanalysis and trauma studies in relation to poetics. She was a teaching assistant at the University College of Teacher Education Carinthia as a participant in the teaching assistant program of the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education (BMB) administered by Fulbright Austria (Austrian-American Educational Commission). Currently she is a Fulbright/IFK_Junior Fellow.
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