This two-day conference invites researchers from a wide range of disciplines to address the relationship between phantasy, language, media and action. Do language and phantasy feed into one another, especially in the contemporary mediascape, fostering an extremist mentality that foments violent political action? And, if so, how can we understand the relationship between action on the one side, and phantasy and language in their specific forms of mediation on the other? Although it is difficult to establish causal links between, for example, racist slurs and racist violence, we can nevertheless observe how increases in ethnocentric, xenophobic and fundamentalist speech in online forums and on social networking sites go together with increases in right-extremist criminal acts, as is presently the case in Germany.
Various traditions of research into prejudice, extremism, violence and the media have taken different routes in conceptualising the links between the above concepts. Discourse analysis, for example, has pointed to the subtle ways in which language use can help make symbolic violence
permissible. Social psychology, and especially the social identity tradition, has shown how typical tendencies in group dynamics suggest certain fault lines for larger-scale political behaviour. Media effect studies, in turn, have suggested a string of concepts based on social-psychological work, such as “uses-and-gratifications”, the “spiral of silence”, “agenda setting”, and “frame theory”, which can be instrumental in conceiving how people’s construction of reality, facilitated by media, might lead to widely held dispositions for the legitimation of socio-political action and/or the restraining and containing of such action.
Although there is a substantial psychoanalytic literature on prejudice, ethnic and religious hatred, and fundamentalism, there is little on the process of fomenting violence, which moves from phantasy through language into action. With a view to intervening in and advancing the above traditions, the conference invites papers inquiring into how psychoanalysis can help understand the build-up to eruptions of violence. How can conceptions of sociality, relationality, divisiveness, exclusion and affect, developed in various psychoanalytic traditions, shed light on the often invisible ties that link what we do to what we feel, imagine, hear, see, read or say – or to an atmosphere of extremism? Can psychoanalysis contribute to deliberations around policy and practice in relation to freedom of speech, ‘hate speech’ and media regulation, as well as foster a sensitivity to implied prejudice in everyday encounters?
The attempt to gain a more rounded, situated and dialectical way to understand these phenomena suggests ‘scenic’ methodology, for which the work of Alfred Lorenzer – a psychoanalytic-social theorist not well known in the English-speaking world – is central. We plan to reserve one session to explore his work, but we invite you imaginatively to address the full range of issues relevant to the topic of the conference. We encourage an open, exploratory manner and look forward to engaging discussions.
*Indicative **fields of research include*:
- Psychodynamics and social dynamics of political violence, and their enmeshment / co-constitution.
- Spaces, scopes and fields of action.
- Gendered forms / gender dynamics.
- Media discourses / media performances.
- (Symbolic) interactions.
- Internal and external worlds.
- Freedom of expression vs blasphemy and prejudice.
- -isms, -phobias and psychopathologies.
- Methodological and/or theoretical reflections.
- Researching across cultures.
- Historical studies.
- Humiliation and violence.
- Violence and purification.
- Bystanders and collusion with political violence.
- Psychotic realities: Paranoia and delusions of threat.
- Hate speech and hate actions.
If you would like to offer a paper to the conference, relating to the above fields or to other aspects of the overall conference theme, please send an abstract of 300-400 words to:
A two-day international conference at the /Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies, / /University of Essex/, UK, September 9 – 10 2016, in co-operation with /Bournemouth University/ and the /University of Oslo/ (UiO), Norway.
Steffen Krueger, postdoc and lecturer, Dept. of Media and Communication, University of Oslo
Karl Figlio, Professor Emeritus, Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies, University of Essex.
Barry Richards, Professor of Political Psychology, Bournemouth University.