P. Steven SANDGREN : Psychoanalysis and Its Resistances in Michel Foucault’s The History of Sexuality : Lessons for Anthropology

By Professor P. Steven Sandgren, Department of Anthropology, Cornell University, McGraw Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853

In Ethos March 2004, Vol. 32, No. 1, pp. 110-122 Posted online on November 8, 2004. (doi:10.1525/eth.2004.32.1.110)

This article argues that Foucauit’s influential The History of Sexuality, Volume 1 embodies a tension between an explicit theory of the discursive production of « the subject » and an implicit resistance to the reality of this same revelation. This tension is shown to parallel the organization of desire understood in psychoanalytic terms that is to say, desire is an emergent effect linked to our resistances to the social worlds that produce us. Consequently, despite The History of Sexuality’s antipathy to psychoanalysis, its most redeeming interpretation may be a psychoanalytic one. Anthropological interest in the « cultural construction » of personhood, emotions, and similar categories bears important affinities to Foucauit’s discursive productivity. Consequently, the concept of culture manifest in such notions requires incorporating desire’s resistances. Moreover, complicating our understanding of culture in these terms facilitates understanding both human commonalities and the character of cultural differences.

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