On the Psychotheology of Everyday Life

A series of conversations about psychoanalysis, love, and the anxiety of choice in late capitalism


Fields of Knowledge
  • Philosophy / Theory
  • Politics / Economics


Patricia Gherovici, Jean-Michel Rabaté


Affiliated Psychoanalytic Workgroups (APW), Jewish Studies Program, Program in Comparative Literature and Theory, Department of English, Department of Romance Languages, Department of Slavic Studies, University of Pennsylvania

Opens to public



4017 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104


0% Formal - 100% Informal

Slought is pleased to announce "On the Psychotheology of Everyday Life," a series of conversations and events on the topics of psychoanalysis, love, and the anxiety of choice in late capitalism, beginning with a public lecture by Eric Santner on Thursday, October 31, 2002. Santner attempts to put Freud in dialogue with his contemporary Franz Rosenzweig in the service of reimagining ethical and political life in the age of globalization. The next event in the series, "On Paranoia, Superstition and Irrationality," will feature Catherine Liu in conversation with Jean-Michel Rabaté on Friday, April 18, 2003.

To follow is "Who Am I For Myself? Anxiety and The Tyranny of Choice," a conversation with and presentation by Renata Salecl on Thursday, February 16, 2006 from 6:30-8:00pm. Salecl engages Charles Shepherdson, Patricia Gherovici, and Jean-Michel Rabaté in a wide-ranging discussion about the anxiety of choice in late capitalism.

In conjunction with the Eighth Annual Affiliated Psychoanalytic Workgroups (APW) Conference "On Love" at the University of Pennsylvania, Slought will then present "Love from Both Sides," a lecture by psychoanalyst and translator Bruce Fink on Saturday, March 29, 2008 from 5:30-7:00pm, moderated by Patricia Gherovici. What are psychoanalysts talking about when they speak of love? If the aim of the cure is to restore the analysand's ability to work and love, is it, in the terms of Freud's famous opposition, anaclitic-type or narcissistic-type object love that must be recovered? Is it fixation on a lost object, of whichever variety, that must be overcome? Or is it that love and desire have diverged--where they love they do not desire and where they desire they cannot love--and must be encouraged to fuse? Is it romantic love that psychoanalysis enables, by inciting the analysand's passion for the analyst? Lacan's contributions to the study of love span the half-century of his published work, and include--just to scratch the surface--discussions of the imaginary passion of jealousy in Family Complexes; narcissistic love arising from the mirror stage; love as giving what you don't have in Écrits; courtly love and the relations between love, beauty, and the Thing in the Ethics seminar; love as a "comical feeling," the miracle of love, and the "metaphor of love" in his reading of Plato's Symposium; the "uranian love" of André Gide; and the suggestion of a possible subject-to-subject love beyond desire in Seminar XX. Fink will address topics such as these, concerning love as a pivotal force in analytic treatment and in life more generally, and outline some of the features of Lacan's theory of love--indeed, perhaps of his multiple theories of love.

Our next event will be "On Being Jewish by Sigmund Freud," a conversation with critics Betty Fuks and Eliza Slavet on Tuesday, October 6, 2009 from 6-8pm, moderated by Liliane Weissberg and Patricia Gherovici. How can Freud help us understand the difference between Jewishness and being Jewish? Can psychoanalysis have original things to say about what makes a person Jewish, and is this identical with Judaism? Was Freud betraying his own people when he asserted that Moses was Egyptian? What does psychoanalysis have to say about "racial fever," i.e. the unquenchable desire and drive to discover, recount and (sometimes even) invent ancestral memories that might somehow explain the present? Is there any way to think about race without reducing it to racism or to physical differences? Moving beyond biographical debates about how Freud felt about Judaism, the conversation will explore his redefinition of Jewishness: what it is, how it is transmitted, and how it has survived. By engaging with the Freudian text, both Fuks and Slavet offer insightful accounts of how Freud invented a unique understanding of Jewishness.

On February 27, 2012 from 6-7:30pm, Slought will then present "Social violence and the ideology of unlimited possibilities," part of a recent book by Renata Salecl with a conversation between Mary Gergen, Patricia Gherovici, and Jean-Michel Rabaté to follow. Salecl's fundamental starting point is why people believe in the ideology of choice, despite the fact that it is incredibly difficult to make major choices in regard to what kind of society we want to live in. She will explore the mechanisms of identification and denial that operate in post-industrial capitalism, and how these mechanisms prevent us from revolting against dominant ideology. She will also examine contemporary examples of transgression, from contemporary interventions in art, to the recent London riots, and movements related to Occupy Wall Street.

Following this is "Freud's Anti-Genitality," a conversation with Leo Bersani on Tuesday, September 11, 2012 from 6:30-8:00pm engaging recent discussions in psychoanalysis. Bersani will explore questions such as: Are the human genitals at once exciting and repellent? Is the body psychoanalytically "saved" by the Freudian notion of the drive? This seems to be Freud's view of the subject, and it risks problematizing, in an unhelpful way, the centrality of the body in psychoanalytic thought.

Finally, join us for "From Forensic Fraud to the Perversion of Science," a conversation with Renata Salecl and psychoanalyst Manya Steinkoler, on Friday, February 22, 2013 from 7:00-8:30pm. The results of DNA testing and other forms of forensic evidence support an idea of the efficacy of science, of its empirical neutrality, and by extension, of its fundamental accuracy and justness. Yet, we cannot escape the fact that such technologies are frequently compromised by their implementation, by subjective motives driving their application, and by the private issues investigators, technicians, and experts bring to bear on the evidence they yield. Salecl has compiled countless examples of forensic errors and legal fraud. Blending Lacanian analysis and cultural critique to question the myth of a neutral forensic science, she argues that one should distinguish "bad science" from "perverted science."

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"There is a big secret about sex: most people don't like it."

-- Leo Bersani, Is the Rectum a Grave?

"In the Western world, people are not only under the impression that there are endless possibilities to find fulfillment in life, but they are also encouraged to be some kind of self-creators, i.e., they are supposedly free to choose what they want to be. In this highly individualized society, which allegedly gives priority to the individual's freedoms over submission to group causes, people, however, face an important anxiety provoking dilemma: 'Who am I for myself?'

The idea that we are supposed to be able to manage ourselves and that there is a choice in how we deal with our emotions, is linked to the very perception of the self that dominates late capitalist society. Today, the true self is increasingly self-made, and more than that, an individual project. In the 1980s and 1990s, drawing on the work of Michel Foucault, academic theories emphasized the social construction of the self. However, now self construction has become a cultural imperative in the West, and the emphasis is not on social determinations, but on the individual project of self-making. This is related to what Ulrich Beck and others have called 'individualization.' While individualization takes many forms, it always involves a 'fetishization' of the autonomous self, one that refuses to acknowledge the idea that society can set limits on self-aspiration. Paradoxically, the ideology of a limitless world is itself a product of late capitalism and the relentless drive of consumer society with its emphasis on endless choice and possibility. If, on the one hand, we live under the assumption that everything in life can be a matter of choice (on top of consumer and usual political choices, we can choose not only how we look, but our sexual orientation, whether or not to have children, what kind of medical treatment we want, etc.), on the other hand, the very choice itself seems to be anxiety provoking and deeply dissatisfying. That is why we often hear in the popular media that our society actually suffers from so-called tyranny of choice and an abundance of freedom."

-- Renata Salecl

Bruce Fink is a Lacanian Psychoanalyst, Member of the Ecole de la Cause freudienne, and Professor of Psychology at Duquesne University.

Betty B. Fuks is a psychoanalyst practicing in Brazil. She teaches at the Post-Graduate Program of the Universidade Veiga de Almeida and at the Pontifícia Universidade Católica both in Rio de Janeiro.

Patricia Gherovici is a Lacanian analyst in private practice and founding member and director of the Philadelphia Lacan Study Group and Seminar.

Catherine Liu received her Ph.D. in French Literature from The Graduate Center of the City University of New York. She is a professor of Film & Media Studies and the director of the Humanities Center at the University of California Irvine.

Jean-Michel Rabaté is a Senior Curator at Slought and has a Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Pennsylvania since 1992.

Renata Salecl is an internationally acclaimed philosopher and sociologist, Senior Researcher at the Institute of Criminology at the Faculty of Law, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, and Centennial Professor at the London School of Economics.

Eric L. Santner is the Harriet and Ulrich Meyer Professor in Germanic Studies and Jewish Studies at the University of Chicago.

Charles Shepherdson is Professor of English, SUNY Albany. He writes on contemporary continental philosophy and psychoanalysis.

Eliza Slavet has a PhD in Literature from UC San Diego, an MM in Oboe Performance from the Yale School of Music, and has taught at Parsons, the Gallatin School, NYU, Queens College, CUNY, and UC San Diego.

Liliane Weissberg is Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor in the School of Arts and Sciences and Professor of German and Comparative Literature.