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Scott McDaniel, Untitled

Lacanian Approaches to Difference: Race, Racism, and Xenophobia

How can we understand race, racism, and xenophobia from the perspective of Lacanian psychoanalysis?  Lacan did not comment much directly on these topics, with one of his main commentaries being given in 1973 in Television: Jacques-Alain Miller asked Lacan: “What gives you the confidence to prophesy the rise of racism?  And why the devil do you have to speak of it?” (1990, p. 32). Lacan answered, 

“Because it doesn’t strike me as funny and yet, it’s true. With our jouissance going off the track, only the Other is able to mark its position, but only insofar as we are separated from this Other. Whence certain fantasies – unheard of before the melting pot. Leaving this Other to his own mode of jouissance, that would only be possible by not imposing our own on him, by not thinking of him as underdeveloped. Given, too, the precariousness of our own mode, which from now on takes its bearings from the ideal of an overcoming [plus-de-jouir], which is, in fact, no longer expressed in any other way, how can one hope that the empty forms of humanhysterianism [humanitairerie] disguising our extortions can continue to last? Even if God, thus newly strengthened, should end up existing, this bodes nothing better than a return of his baneful past (pp. 32-33).” 


Even in this brief snippet, Lacan gives us much to ponder regarding how our times, shaped by the melting pot and the ideal of plus-de-jouir, might incite a rise of racism.  Via his comments on the capitalist discourse, we might further theorize on the dependency in neoliberal times of the speaking being on racism.  Despite the paucity of direct theorizing on racism in Lacan’s oeuvre, Lacan does provide us with a rich theoretical framework from which to theorize race, racism, and xenophobia ourselves.  Jouissance, lack, the split subject, object a, the sinthome, the imaginary, the symbolic, the real, the structure of fantasy…


As such, this seminar will encourage participants to theorize race, racism, and xenophobia with the aid of the readings found below.  Discussions which interweave theory and practice encouraged.  *This seminar does assume prior foundational knowledge of the aforementioned Lacanian concepts (e.g., jouissance, lack, the split subject, object a, the sinthome, the imaginary, the symbolic, the real, the structure of fantasy).* 


Required texts:

Chapters 7 and 8 only of 

Swales, S. & Owens, C. (2019). Psychoanalysing Ambivalence with Freud and Lacan: On and Off the Couch. Routledge: New York. 


BOOK PURCHASE REQUIRED (but selected chapters only will be discussed) Lacan and Race: Racism, Identity, and Psychoanalytic Theory (Eds. Sheldon George and Derek Hook); forthcoming by the end of summer of 2021, Routledge.

Chapter 1: Derek Hook’s “Racism….as enjoyment?”

Chapter 2. Sheldon George’s “The Lacanian Subject of Race: Sexuation, the Drive and Racial Subjectivity”

Chapter 5: Todd McGowan’s “The Bedlam of the Lynch Mob: Racism and Enjoying Through the Other”

Chapter 6: Hilary Neroni’s “Confederate Signifiers in Vermont: Fetish objects and Racist Enjoyment”

Chapter 7: Molly Anne Rothenberg’s “Raced Group Pathologies and Cultural Sublimation”

Chapter 8: Michelle Ann Stephens’ “Skin-Things, Fleshy Matters and Phantasies of Race: Lacan’s Myth of the Lamella”

Chapter 9: Kareen Malone & Tiara Jackson, “Re-reading the Lacanian stakes: Afro-Pessimism and the elements of anti-Blackness and Lacanian Psychoanalysis”

Chapter 10: Gautam Basu Thakur’s “Fanon, “zone of non-being,” and the Politics of the Impossible Real”


Miller, J. A. (1994). Extimité.” In M. Bracher, M. Alcorn, R. Corthell, & F. Massardier-Kenney (Eds.). Lacanian theory of discourse: Subject, structure, and society (pp. 74-87). New York: New York University Press. 


Faculty: Stephanie Swales, Ph.D.

Date & time: Mondays, 5:00-6:30pm Pacific Time/7-8:30pm Central Time;  January 17 and 31 of 2022, February 21, 2022, March 28, 2022, April 11, 2022

Location: Online via Zoom
Fee: Free of charge, donations to The School encouraged

Contact:  Stephanie Swales, Ph.D. at

Stephanie Swales, Ph.D. Analyst of the School and Faculty of LSP, Stephanie Swales is an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Dallas, a practicing psychoanalyst, a licensed clinical psychologist, and a clinical supervisor located in Dallas, Texas. She is the author of two books: Psychoanalysing Ambivalence with Freud and Lacan: On and Off the Couch (Routledge, 2019), co-authored with Carol Owens, and Perversion: A Lacanian Psychoanalytic Approach to the Subject (Routledge, 2012). She is also the author of numerous articles and book chapters on the theory and practice of Lacanian psychoanalysis.