This edition of the Psychohistory News has some distinctive articles. Certainly, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine has preoccupied the news and social media. On the Clio’s Psyche discussion group , it has generated more discussion than in years. In November 2021, chaired Johns Hopkins University history professor, Mary Elise Sarotte, published a 500-page book on the U.S. and Russia in the 1990s. It has received strong praise in Foreign Affairs and The New York Review of Books. A report of its findings is presented as the first essay. The second article is also mostly a report. It covers “Psychoanalysis and History,” which is the theme for the April 2022 issue of History of the Present: A Journal of Critical History. This edition is co-edited by distinguished historian Joan Wallach Scott and University of South Florida historian Brian Connolly. The essays collected in this issue have perspectives on history and psychoanalysis that are not usually found in psychohistory publications. The report is followed by an interview about History of the Present with the aforementioned Brian Connolly.
That interview is followed by an article on the forthcoming psychohistory conferences in May and June compiled and written by psychohistory president Brian D’Agostino. Then comes an interview with Howard Stein. Trained as an anthropologist, Howard started attending psychohistory conferences in the late 1970s. Over the course of his career he has published 33 books in more fields than one can normally shake a stick at. Dr. Inna Rozentsvit has an article summarizing a psychohistory conference on the intergenerational transmission of trauma. We close with an article on a woman, Karen Fund, whose birth control method left her unable to conceive a child. She and her husband eventually found a surrogate who gave birth to two children for the couple. Her story is related in a very interesting book entitled Surrogate.
1. RUSSIA, THE U.S. AND NATO FROM THE BERLIN WALL’S FALL TO 2000: A BOOK REPORT
By Ken Fuchsman
On February 24, 2022, masses of Russian troops invaded Ukraine. This began the first major interstate European war since the Germans surrendered in 1945. What had been deemed the Long Peace in Europe came to a violent end.
Soon after, television screens and social media platforms showed scenes of Russians bombing civilian targets, of mass graves, of children being slaughtered, of millions fleeing Ukraine. This armed conflict became a central preoccupation within Western culture.
Even before the Russian military crossed into Ukraine, the partisan political polarization that has so characterized recent times reared its head. On one side, NATO’s expansion from 12 nations in 1949 to 30 in 2020 was perceived as encircling and endangering Russian security. Acting out of defense against NATO aggression was characterized as Putin’s motivation. The Russian leader was portrayed as a patriotic nationalist defending his country’s well-being. A polar opposite view developed. Here Putin was a new Russian Tsar. He brutally suppresses internal opposition, sends agents to foreign countries to assassinate dissident Russians, intervening in the domestic politics in the U. S. and France. It was warned that how Putin conducted wars in Chechnya and Syria would be destructively imposed on the civilians of Ukraine. The proverbial partisan battle lines had been drawn.
Into this fray, in November 2021 a full historical account of the diplomacy between NATO and Russia from 1989 until 2000 appeared. The book is Not One Inch: America, Russia, and the Making of Post-Cold War Stalemate (Yale, 2021). The author is Mary Elisa Sarotte, the Marie-Josee and Henry R. Kravis Professor of Historical Studies at Johns Hopkins University.
Foreign Affairs says Sarotte’s book is “the most engaging and carefully documented account of this period of East-West diplomacy.” Georgetown Professor on International Affairs, Charles Kupchan, says her account is “groundbreaking” and “nuanced.” In The New York Review of Books, Fred Kaplan finds that Sarotte’s history is “highly detailed, thoroughly researched, and briskly written.”
It has more than enough primary and secondary research to give readers material to evaluate competing accounts of the conflicts between Russia, NATO, and the U.S. What follows is a report on the findings of Sarotte’s book. My aim is to stick to her documentation and evaluations, and not intersperse these with my own perspectives.
She writes, “Between the fall of the Wall and the rise of Putin, animosity between Moscow and Washington over NATO’s future became central to the making of a post-Cold War political order that looked much like its Cold War predecessor.” She concludes that the way NATO’s “expansion was implemented brought a loss of options for twenty-first century transatlantic relations.” Sarotte presents both sides of the diplomatic encounters that led to the international political stalemate, “It is time,” Sarotte writes, “to take a serious look, using all available historical evidence, at what unfolded during the 1990s.”
The history begins with a fatal but mistaken announcement by an East German Politburo member on November 9, 1989 that gave the erroneous impression that the Berlin Wall was now open. That night thousands crossed from East into West Berlin, follow by a flood of hundreds of thousands abandoning East Germany for West Germany. Then on December 19th, West German chancellor Helmut Kohl spoke in East Germany at Dresden. He called for the unity of Germany. A mass of West German flags was displayed in the audience. The crowd hailed Kohl as a savior. He realized German unity might soon happen.
Recognizing the severity of the crisis, Soviet leader Gorbachev in early February, 1990 met with U.S. Secretary of State James Baker in Moscow. At the encounter, Baker posed a hypothetical to Gorbachev, what if you let your part of Germany go, and the U.S. agrees that NATO will “not shift one inch eastward from its present position.” Gorbachev responded that NATO expanding was not acceptable. Baker agreed.
Contrary to the implications of Baker’s question, his boss, U.S. President George H. W. Bush and his National Security Council advisers saw no need to make concessions about NATO’s future. Bush communicated these views both to German Chancellor Kohl and James Baker. At the President’s request, his secretary of state stopped using the phrase not one inch.
But to a later Russian leader, it was not only Baker who at that time was saying NATO would not expand to the east. Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov told a high-level Clinton official in 1996 that Germany’s Kohl, Britain’s John Major and France’s Francois Mitterrand each told Gorbachev in 1990 that not one former Warsaw Pact nation would enter NATO.
Sarotte writes something different. She says that when in the 1990 negotiations with Kohl on German unification, Gorbachev “had not secured any major concessions… either orally or in writing, on NATO or any other topic.” When in September 1990, a settlement on Germany’s unification was signed by the two Germany’s and the four powers that occupied Germany after World War II, it only addressed conditions about Germany’s unification, not one word on NATO expansion was included.
The move to unite Germany unleashed other ambitions. Between the collapse of the Berlin Wall in late 1989 and the dissolution of the Soviet Union on December 26, 1991, a number of once satellite nations in Eastern Europe were making overtures to NATO.
Hungarian prime minister, Josef Antall, on June 7, 1990 called for an “immediate liquidation” of the Soviet sponsored Warsaw Pact military organization. That summer he and his foreign minister visited NATO’s headquarters. On November 18, 1990, Czech President Vaclav Havel asked President Bush to consider “an association agreement between his nation and NATO.” Bush’s response was mixed. The President both tried to divert Havel and assured him that the U.S. does not want “Poland, Hungary or Czechoslovakia in a European no man’s land.” The President of Poland, Lech Walesa, also approached Bush, telling the U.S. leader in March, 1991 that “we resolutely desire to join Western Europe and the United States in political, economic, and military terms.” Under Bush’s leadership, he both wanted to keep NATO’s options open, and on his watch did not move to bring the former satellite countries into NATO.
Meanwhile, Moscow was having all sorts of economic and political problems. Before 1991 turned into 1992, Gorbachev was removed from power. The Soviet Union came to an inglorious end. Boris Yeltsin became the Russian leader.
Not all employed by the Soviets were pleased with the results. Sarotte notes that during the Berlin Wall crisis, KGB agent Vladimir Putin had been stationed in Dresden when the Berlin Wall fell, and was discontented with what he observed. Sarotte quotes Putin as later saying: “we would have avoided a lot of problems if the Soviets had not made a hasty exit from Eastern Europe.” To Putin, “only one thing works in such circumstances – to go on the offensive. You must hit first, and hit so hard that your opponent will not rise to his feet.”
During the Russian turmoil of 1991 and into 1992, President Bush was worried about the vast number of nuclear weapons in the Soviet Union and what would happen to them. Central to this concern was Ukraine. Would that province remain in Russia or seek independence? As Sarotte points out Ukraine had been the second largest Soviet republic. It had 52 million residents, while Britain and France had 57 and 58 million. As well, a full quarter of all nuclear weapons that the U.S.S.R. held were located in Ukraine.
On December 1, 1991, a vote in the Ukraine as to whether to stay or go was held. 84% of the eligible voters turned out. As Sarotte puts it, “a jaw-dropping 90 percent of Ukrainians chose independence.” President Bush called the elected Ukraine leader, Leonid Kravchuk, and asked if he would be willing to discuss disarmament with the U.S. He was. Bush soon said he would recognize Ukraine. It took until 1994 to finalize the agreement to disburse the nuclear weapons in Ukraine and return them to Russia. This was the Budapest Memorandum where the US, the UK and Russia gave security assurances of Ukraine’s territorial integrity in return for the nuclear weapons. Sarotte reports that Ukraine officials doubted that Russia would live up to these agreements. Ukraine’s government hoped that when Russia violated the agreements, they could get assistance from other powers.
As what had been the U.S.S. R. and was now Russia had new leadership, President Bush worked with Boris Yeltsin. Even before he replaced Gorbachev, Yeltsin, as elected leader of the Russian republic within the Soviet empire, was informing Bush about his actions. After his takeover, Yeltsin and his advisers addressed the U.S.’s concerns about the Soviet nuclear arsenal. Bush’s ideas on foreign policy, Russia, and NATO were derailed by his loss in the 1992 election to Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton.
With little foreign policy experience, Clinton put together a team with international affairs experience. What was transpiring in Russia was a major concern. By early 1993, inflation there, the U.S. Treasury reported, was 40% a month. As Sarotte says, “Russia was attempting three major transitions simultaneously, a political one, from an authoritarian system to a democracy; an economic one, from a command to a market-based economy; and an imperial one, from a multiethnic empire to something much smaller.” Furthermore, as British BP John Major said, “Russian president Boris Yeltsin” was “the only elected leader in a thousand years of Russian history.” The U.S. policy under Clinton in the beginning of his presidency was to keep Yeltsin going. A good part of this effort turned out to be personal meetings between the Russian and American presidents. The two hit it off, and ended up meeting 18 times. Their first face to face discussions were less than three months after Clinton became president. Yeltsin thought Clinton was “powerful, energetic, handsome.” Sarotte reports that Clinton prized Yeltsin, despite the Russian’s perpetual drunkenness, because Yeltsin favored democracy and “cooperation verses than competition with the West.”
A complication arose. As Sarotte says, “Central and Eastern Europe…saw admission to NATO as the answer.” Their “democratic courage…in shedding Soviet control, they justifiably felt that European and transatlantic organizations should welcome them.” Among others in this procession was Czech’s Vaclav Havel who met with President Clinton on April 20, 1993, said “we are living in a vacuum” and pressed for full NATO membership. When Lech Walesa met with Clinton at this time, the Polish leader informed Clinton that “we are all afraid of Russia.” Should it happen that Russia “adopts an aggressive foreign policy, that aggression will be directed toward Ukraine and Poland.” Walesa said that “Poland cannot be left defenseless.” The expression of these views confirmed Clinton’s belief, Sarotte reports, that NATO remains the key to stability in Europe. Given other issues, she says, “the issue of NATO membership remained on the back burner in summer 1993.”
Somehow, on August 24, 1993 Walesa persuaded Yeltsin to agree that Russia had no objection to Poland being in NATO. Yeltsin tried to take this back the next day. But Walesa got him to recognize that Poland was sovereign. Walesa then retorted that as a sovereign nation, Poland would join NATO.
Internally, Yeltsin was also changing. On September 21, 1993, though he had no such constitutional power, Yeltsin disbanded the Russian parliament. Then on October 4th, Russian army tanks fired on the parliament building, killed 145 and wounded 800. Over a year later, towards the end of 1994, Yeltsin, Sarotte says, “took a series of tragic steps.” On December 11, 1994, Yeltsin ordered Russian troops to invade Chechnya in the first of two such wars in that territory. To some, Sarotte writes, the Chechnya war was “a watershed moment.” A New York Times reporter wrote that the invasion was “the end of Russia’s liberal dream.”
For those favoring NATO’s expansion, the Chechnya war, she writes, “seemed to prove that the states insisting Russia remained a military threat were right.” Defense Secretary William Perry said that Clinton and Gore now came to believe “that right was on the side of the Eastern European countries that wanted to enter NATO soon, that deferring expansion until later in the decade was not feasible.” Secretary of State Warren Christopher said that Chechnya was “an alarm bell for Central Europe.” It “cast a dark shadow over our relationship with Russia,” and was “inconsistent with democracy.” The Russian invasion increased Christopher’s conviction that NATO expansion was the right course of action. The idea of the Clinton group was there should be a four-to-five-year time frame for these new admissions to NATO.
As well as changing perspectives on the prospects for Russia, Ukraine was in Western leader’s minds. Helmut Kohl said to Clinton in early 1994 that “I told Yeltsin that even any suspicion that Russia wanted to annex Ukraine would be catastrophic.” On May 11, 1995, Clinton said to Ukraine’s leader, Leonid Kuchma, that he recognized “the strategic importance of Ukraine to all of Europe in the 21st century.” The next February Kuchma warned Clinton that “the Russians are doing everything possible to suppress us and drive us to our knees.” He mentioned nonpayment of Russia to Ukraine for denuclearizing, promoting labor unrest, and disconnecting Ukraine from a joint electrical system causing Ukraine “to shut down half of our enterprises.”
The larger picture for the Clinton administration was how to get Yeltsin to formally agree to the further expansion of NATO, including membership for many of the former Soviet satellite nations. Signing such an accord in 1996 was full of risks as both Clinton and Yeltsin were up for re-election that year. To sweeten the pot for Putin, the U.S. agreed to admit Russia into the G7, an association of nations with advanced economies. Also, finding ways of getting money to Russia to help with their economy was another sweetener. The Russian foreign minister, Primakov, had said that admitting the Baltic States and Ukraine to NATO would be a red line. Yeltsin had insisted on no membership for the Baltics. He dropped this condition by the time the NATO-Russia Founding Act was signed in May, 1997. Explicit in the document was the permission for NATO to expand where the Soviets had been dominant. Russia had formally agreed to NATO growth.
Almost immediately after the signing of the Founding Act, Yeltsin went to Ukraine and negotiated and signed on May 31, 1997 the Russia-Ukraine Friendship Treaty. This pledged “mutual respect” for “territorial integrity and the “inviolability of borders.”
Plans now went ahead to expand NATO. The three countries that had begun lobbying for membership in 1990, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland, became NATO members in 1999.
In Russia, Yeltsin’s health was problematic, and worries that there would be a change of the guard emerged. Vladimir Putin who had been working for St. Petersburg’s mayor, was hired to work for Yeltsin’s chief of staff, and moved to Moscow. He then rose to head the Russian FSB, the successor to the KGB. He found favor with Yeltsin himself, and on August 9, 1999 the Russian leader promoted Putin to become prime minister. And so, the twentieth century was about to come to a close.
Sarotte begins her conclusion by saying that in Russia there had developed “fertile ground for latter-day Soviet-trained authoritarians such as Putin.” The new leader “began gradually throttling back the democratic transformation while resuming old habits of competition with the West.” What then occurred is “US-Russian relations” fell into “a trajectory that fell well short of post-Cold War hopes.” The “renewed tensions stem in large part from Russia’s own choices.” This included the first Chechnya war, which “opened up a pathway to popularity for Putin.” Still, Sarotte says that if the West had prioritized “a post- Cold War security order that included Russia” that “could have decreased tensions between the word’s two nuclear superpowers.” She then lists five ways this might have happened. First, not dismissing but soberly discussing Russia’s claim that it had a guarantee of no NATO expansion for allowing Germany to unite. A second concession would have been changing NATO’s name. Third, after admitting three nations in 1999. NATO “could have paused instead of immediately commencing talks with nine countries.” Fourth, being more responsive to a separate Nordic security organization could have been helpful. Fifth, altering the Article 5 umbrella of mutual defense could have added other countries “less confrontationally.”
Sarotte does say that the Central and Eastern European countries had a right to choose to join NATO. To Sarotte, NATO did not adequately consider the consequences of such large expansion. On the other hand, Sarotte says, “Russia undermined European post-Cold War stability” by promoting “erosion of democratic practices and norms in Central and Eastern Europe” as well as using “cyber infiltration and other forms of aggression from Moscow.” Putin in 2016 “marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of the the Soviet Union’s collapse by conducting cyberattacks on US elections in support of presidential candidate Donald Trump.” Now, in 2021, she says, “confrontation between the West and Russia is once again the order of the day.”
Sarotte regrets that in the 1990s more was not done to live up to the promise of a different, more cooperative order. She finds a model in the partnership after 1945 of “former enemies” France and Germany. She then quotes Francois Mitterrand’s lesson from those post-World War II decades. He asserts that there is “no other way” forward except cooperation in Europe. If this were not to happen then Europeans were not worthy “of the grace and gift of these past fifty years.” Sarotte herself concludes by declaring that “we should do everything in our power to recreate such times, in order to renew our pursuit of the full measure of their grace.”
Ken Fuchsman is the content editor of the Psychohistory News. From 2016 to 2020 he was President of the International Psychohistorical Association. Dr. Fuchsman is emeritus faculty from the University of Connecticut, where he was also Executive Program Director of the Bachelor of General Studies Program. His recent books include two co-edited volumes: one on Donald Trump and the other on Michael Eigen. He is also the author of Movies, Rock & Roll, Freud: Essays on Film and Music. He can be reached at
2. Psychoanalysis and History: Current Issue of the History of the Present Journal
By Ken Fuchsman
“Psychoanalysis and History” is the title and subject matter of the April 2022 issue of History of the Present: A Journal of Critical History. My article reports on the contents of this issue. Certainly, the relationship of history and psychoanalysis has been central to psychohistory, and any recent account of this topic outside the usual suspects is newsworthy.
Brian Connolly and Joan Wallach Scott are the Special Issue Editors. She is an emeritus professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. Dr. Connolly is History Department Chair at the University of South Florida. He wrote the introduction to this issue. An interview with him about the journal follows this article.
While this is a collection of diverse essays, thematic strands run through many of these articles: historical writing is examined through a psychoanalytic lens, a post-Freudian psychoanalysis is often featured, it is a politically leftist psychoanalysis, and the politics often centers on race, as well as colonial and post-colonial legacies.
In the introduction, Brian Connolly, begins by declaring that the “relationship between psychoanalysis and history has long been a vexed one.” Analysis itself presented a “a radical revision of personal history” which later deeply impacted on “larger, collective history.” For a while, psychohistory, “which drew primarily on ego psychology,” had its day, but “by the 1980s, psychohistory was on the decline.” However, recently, there is “a revival of sorts at the conjuncture of psychoanalysis and history.” This issue of History of the Present rethinks the complex relationship between the two fields. It does so by pushing “well beyond the strictures of psychohistory,” and does so by “taking the unconscious dimensions of our thinking into account” in “understanding the workings of politics and the ways in which we represent our pasts.”
How psychoanalytic notions help reconceive the discipline of history is addressed in Professor Max Cavitch’s “In the Interest of History.” Cavitch is codirector of the Psychoanalytic Studies Program and associate professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania. He has high praise for psychoanalysis, a field which Cavitch says, provides “many of the best tools with which to live our lives as subjects.” This includes a revision of historical writing to get beyond the “entrenchment of social historians’ empiricist fixations.” For historical works are “subjectively conditioned.” Telling “anyone’s history means telling some version of one’s own.” Each historian has “a specific history of subjectivation,” and he or she needs to recognize “their own defense mechanisms.” Cavitch quotes Joan Wallach Scott in her insisting “on the necessary interconnection between the theoretical and the empirical.” As a result of these recognitions, history is changing. Conjecture and speculation “have become at least partially legitimized historical methodologies” as “they are predicates of understanding.”
We need to recognize that “all lives” have much in them that are “largely counterfactual. Human beings are engines of irrealities: fantasies, confirmation- biases, psychic defense mechanisms and dissociative states, ideologies and belief systems, states of desire, disgust, ecstasy, optimism and shame, vicissitudes of temperament, genetic predispositions.” To Cavitch, psychoanalysis “helps keep history…open to the intolerable…of calling into question, of criticism and contestation of what” seems “established.”
For about a century those who examined the brain found studying internal mental states “seemed intolerable.” Then in neuroscience “unanticipated shifts in perspectives occurred.” Cavitch’s hope that in history instead of “several decades of empirical retrenchment” that “historians might, in the interest of history, embrace a similar shift.” For to him, until history incorporates more of the underside of our human traits and includes more fully our subjectivity and awareness of historian’s own biases, it will not do justice to the historical enterprise.
To Cavitch, history needs to lessen its empiricist fetish, to study more the subjectivity of historical figures, and for historians to become more aware of how their own defenses and biases misshape their historical accounts. In other words, psychoanalytic insight can help the historical discipline overcome its conceptual and psychological limitations.
Carolyn Shapiro, senior lecturer at Falmouth University, in “Vicissitudes and Their Inscriptions” writes about historical narrative and psychoanalysis. The material of both, she writes, are fragments that then are combined into a narrative. Citing French Lacanian Michel de Certeau, Shapiro asserts that it is the psychoanalytic method that enables us to comprehend how history operates. For historical writing to compose a narrative, it has to combine incompatible elements into a story. It then creates the appearance of rationality, but is really full of ambivalences. To de Certeau, history acts as both “the discourse of a law…and as an alibi, a realistic illusion.” It is difficult to separate the production of history from telling stories. This principle of writing an account as a discourse that can be a realistic illusion Shapiro finds in Freud’s first full case study, the Dora narrative.
Shapiro finds that Freud’s narrative contains the same kind of authorial ambivalence as one finds in historical stories. She says Freud acknowledged “his role as inauthentic constructor.” Her own essay here “investigated vicissitudes in relation to writing, particularly, the writing of history.” But she knows that Freud, like other writers of history, puts “himself in a double bind” in seeking to compose “a fragment of authenticity and that of constructor of readable narrative.” She returns to de Certeau who says that narrative hides its own performativity and ambivalence. A psychoanalytic approach to historical writing can show that there are challenges in composing narratives, including inauthenticity, ambivalence, and hiding as much as revealing.
For Shapiro, history is a form of writing that needs to be examined. Historical narratives whether in a Freudian case study or by a trained academic contain often inauthentic constructions. Psychoanalytic approaches to reading history deconstruct the written narratives in ways that help us better understand that historical works are ambivalent narratives with unresolved tensions.
David Eng is the Richard L. Fisher Professor of English and also of Asian Studies, Comparative Literature and Literary Theory as well as Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. His essay is “The History of the Subject and the Subject of History.” His starting point is “the radical shift in our conception of the human being” brought on by the Holocaust and the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Eng approvingly quotes Mary McCarthy’s 1946 response to Hiroshima that the “continuity of life was, for the first time, put into question, and by man.” We have entered into a new developmental stage of horrific trauma. While some may include in these human-made catastrophes, the World War II highly lethal fire bombings of 2 German and 66 Japanese cities, but Eng does not.
Still, there is more than enough to deal with in sorting through the significance of the Nazi extermination of 6 million Jews and the horrors induced by the dropping of nuclear weapons on Japan. Eng believes that “psychoanalysis might offer some critical insights to address this significant historical divide.” This is because to Eng “psychoanalysis is the privileged vocabulary of trauma.” Some scholars writing on the history, development, and treatment of trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder would contest Eng’s centering on psychoanalysis as privileged more than other research from other branches of psychology.
His article, though, centers on the “unexamined links between psychic and political theories of trauma.” He focuses on the “history of the traumatized subject” and maintains that “psychoanalysis provides a vocabulary for analyzing…racial desires and prohibitions.”
Eng is concerned with who are the victims and perpetrators of trauma and atrocities. He cites Cathy Caruth’s influential thesis of unclaimed experience. Caruth asserts that the severity of trauma may not be immediately accessible and only comes into consciousness later. To Caruth, all of us “are implicated in each other’s traumas.” Her account raises the question of who is victim and who perpetrator.
Our author then recounts historian Ruth Leys critique of English professor Cathy Caruth. Leys says Caruth is politically and historically a relativist and that her “logic would turn perpetrators into victims.” Eng then takes up the thorny question of victim and perpetrators in the legal and moral examinations of accountability for the Holocaust and the American use of nuclear weapons.
While clearly the Allies after World War II considered the extermination of Jewish non-combatants by Hitler’s German government to be a crime. The Nuremberg trials convicted many Germans as perpetrators of serious offenses. On the other hand, the American fire bombing and atomic bombings of Japanese civilians met a different fate. As Eng observes, “the deployment of nuclear weapons in Japan has never been legally categorized as a ‘crime against humanity’ or as ‘genocide.”
Like Nuremberg, the Allies led a Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal, which was concerned with the war crimes of the defeated and not the misdeeds of the occupying powers. A dissent in the Tokyo verdicts was by a Justice from India, who insisted Japanese offenses could not fairly be judged without taking into account prior atrocities in Asia and Africa committed by Western nations.
Eng himself maintains that looking at nuclear devastation in the language of universalism leaves out “the Asian origins of ‘ground zero’.” To him, this origin “should not be forgotten.” For what still needs to be resolved is “the problem of racial reparations and the human in the space of the Transpacific.” Eng does not favor a strict boundary between victims and perpetrators of trauma, but “a politics of recognition – a politics of individual suffering.” To him, we need “to reconfigure repair and redress” separate from issues of sovereignty. The reason for this is to speak on “behalf of those rendered inhuman by their fraught political legacies and loaded psychic dynamics.”
For Eng, with the horrors generated during the Second World War humanity has crossed a line. Clearly, to him, the post-war tribunals did not do justice to the traumas experienced. Many victims were not granted justice. Humanity needs to recognize the damages of history; we need to repair these horrendous traumas by a form of reparation outside the paradigm of sovereignty. To Eng, we understand the emotional ramifications of these terrors through psychoanalysis, we alter their legacies by historically informed political action.
Elizabeth Maddock Dillon is cofounder and codirector of the Early Caribbean Digital Archive and distinguished professor of English at Northeastern University. Her paper is entitled “Anti-Oedipus: Gender and Racial Capitalism in Plantation Modernity.”
To Freud, it is sex that contains the fundamental concept of human difference. Dillon disagrees. She cites literature professor Hortense Spillers, who asserts that psychic and cultural foundation of Western modernity is the Atlantic slave trade. As Dillon relates this position, it is “race rather than sex” that is “the foundational difference that structures modern identity.” For Spillers, “race serves as the ground of the theory of psychoanalysis.”
Dillon says gender as Freud formulates it is not a stand-alone category. It is “an aspect of racial capitalism.” For “the white, binary concept of heteronormative gender and sexuality at the heart of Freudian theory is made possible (indeed necessitated) by race slavery, settler colonialism, and racial capitalism.” Freud’s approach “is more symptom than cause of dominant accounts of a binary sex-gender system.” Given the realities of slavery in the Western hemisphere after European conquest, it is not just race that is central. Freud also postulates incest as primary.
Dillon says that as the colonial Caribbean slavery with its sexual violation of female slaves appeared before Freud formulated the Oedipus complex, “then rape appears prior to incest as the structuring difference of the psyche and the subject.” She quotes Columbia University literature professor, Gayatri Spivak, “We are – male and female – raped into humanity.“ For it is rape that is “unconditionally initiating all human beings.” This occurs before the “conditioned notion of consent and nature.” Dillon adds that rape “is the line between the humanized…and the nonhumanized.” Rape only becomes criminalized when considering “people with agency, which is to say humanized, nonradically-exogamous sex objects/partners.”
Northwestern Professor of French, Doris Garraway is cited by Dillon as showing how rape and concubinage in the Caribbean colonies were routine and viewed as acceptable plantation behavior. Garraway writes the plantation father, instead of protecting against incest “becomes the primary instigator of its violation.”
This common concubinage of white male slave owners also sets up a tension between their wives and female slaves. As Dillon tells it, “white femininity depends on the erasure of the Black female body.” These sexual relations between white male slaveholders and their female slaves occurred not only in the Caribbean. The sexual relationship of founding father Thomas Jefferson and his slave, Sally Hemings, is a primary example of this underside of slavery. Dartmouth English Professor Kimberly Juanita Brown writes of similar patterns of other male slave owners and their female slaves. These she says “are played out on the bodies of black women.” Somehow, if they are “unearthed and deconstructed,” it “would be the back-story of the construction of a new nation.” Dillon points out for instance that Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson’s wife, Martha, were half-sisters, sharing the same father. Dillon says Sally Hemings might be called “our anagrammatical founding foremother.”
This mixture of rape, incest, slavery, and tension between white female wives of slave owners and their husband’s sexual violation of the female slaves is a more complex and vicious scenario than that proposed in Freud’s Oedipus complex. The lesson preached from this history is that psychoanalysis needs to incorporate rape and race into the basics of its theoretical framework.
Michelle Stephens is founding executive director at Rutgers’ Institute for the Study of Global Racial Injustice, where she is also a professor of English and Latino and Caribbean Studies. In echoes of Norman O. Brown she cites Martinique poet and theorist Edouard Glissant that “our lived history” may well be seen “as a steadily advancing neurosis.” Dr. Stephens describes her own essay here as a “speculative hypothesis” that offers “a different historiography of the Anthropocene in a history of modernity as neurosis.” For there has been a fantasy in “the notion of an objective history of modernity.” The origins of this conception occurred when the West “alone ‘made’ the history of the world.” This was also during the heyday of European colonialism. She asserts that this European account is “that of a neurotic History’s more entangled relationship with European modern, African diasporic” accounts. Not only is history neurotic but it is inseparable form Europe’s colonial exploitations.
Dr. Stephens believes that “we are living in a time of reckoning,” and we need to “reflect on our notions of the human, of history.” For there is “misanthropy at the heart of European colonialism…and a will to dominate those humans as subhuman or other.” The Europeans who colonized the Americas had “a subjectivity…shaped by a specific neurotic complex…that translates into an inability to deal with the world of others.” It turns out “that the Anthropocene and the colonial stories are linked in a shared, destructive notion of the human.” That “fundamental misanthropy” that “undergirds the decolonial, Anthropocene present” necessitates other perspectives. Knowing that “the dark ecologies of the Anthropocene” is “a trauma to the human may be just what the humanities, the human sciences need to see to imagine a way forward.” This would include “history-writing” that encourages “epistemological creativity of hypothesis and speculative experiments, a turning to hidden structures of feeling.” This new history endeavors then may help provide an alternative to the misanthropy that she says has long been part of European colonialism.
To Stephens, using the psychoanalytic concept of the neurotic illuminates the misanthropic history of colonialism and the blindness and will to dominate those who are seen as other. In the crisis of the Anthropocene, psychoanalytic insight can unmask the neurotic exploitations in Western encounters with the colonized. History needs the psychoanalytic unmasking of European mental disorders in this time of reckoning.
“Paranoid Politics” is the title of Princeton University Associate Professor of English Zahid Chaudhary’s contribution to this issue. He mostly focuses on American rightist paranoid politics of the late Trump era. Richard Hofstadter’s landmark 1964 paper on the American paranoid style of politics is relegated solely to a critical footnote. Chaudhary maintains that Hofstadter drew too sharp a distinction between the pathological and non-pathological.
Chaudbary begins by describing the January 6th invasion of the U. S. Capitol as demonstrating “all too spectacularly the damage to democracy that had been ongoing in less visible ways over the last three decades.” He writes, “I want to argue that so-called radicalization took forms of misrecognitions and conjuring – of injury, grievance, and malevolent enemies – that constitute paranoid ideation.” These “collective pathologies” are “a serious business” that help us understand how “the polity” is exposed to “various forms of risk.” He repeatedly returns to QAnon because it has incorporated other conspiracies and is thus a big tent conspiracy. Chaudhary intends “develop the psycho-historical and political economic groundwork for understanding contemporary paranoid politics.”
He focuses in detail on LARP, or Live Action Role Play, which for the right, Chaudhary writes, conjures someone privy to “an existing secret, including “someone pretending to have inside governmental or political information.” For LARPing, he says, feeds “the expansion of paranoid publics.” This includes “psychological features of fascist propaganda” and preparing “the ground for the acceptance of authoritarianism.” For instance, the slogan “Stop the Steal,” Chaudhary proclaims, “is a projective utterance that disavows its own kleptomania” and “marks a libidinal; cathexis.” These projections long to “remake the world in the image of the psychotic illusions it has already deemed to be the truth.” He continues, “QAnon and the militias that have surfaced in recent years seem attached to…fascist utopias.” It is an expression of “fascist apocalypticism.” For to Chaudhary, whether all this “is an orientation toward a dystopian cataclysm or a mirror held up to one already occurring, it is a dystopia that lends politics its charge.” What Chaudhary presents is a grim assessment of what in American politics is putting American democracy at risk, and makes it threatened by fascist authoritarianism.
As many of the essays in this collection are politically leftist and psychoanalytic, Alex Colston’s paper “Left Freudians: The Psychoanalytic Politics of Disobedience” fits into the themes of this volume. Colston writes that “to speak of left Freudians, Freudo-Marxists, and political psychoanalysis is to uncover a hidden dimension within psychoanalytic history.” There were two periods, he says, when psychoanalysis was joined with leftist causes: in the 1920s and early 1930s, and then again in the 1960s and early 1970s. Colston’s piece though focuses as much on Freud himself and Lacan, neither of whom considered themselves as leftist, Marxist, or political radicals. Colston does list the “prominent figures of leftist persuasion in this moment: Frantz Fanon, Herbert Marcuse, Norman O. Brown, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuse, Felix Guattari, Juliet Mitchell, and Jacqueline Rose.” But he does not discuss how any of them combine leftism and psychoanalysis. He spends a quarter of his essay on an exchange in 1969 between Lacan and French protesters where the focus is less on radical doctrines and psychoanalysis, and more on Lacan’s critique of the radicals. Colston spends about an equal percent of his text on Freud’s politics. Early psychoanalytic radicals, Otto Gross, who died in 1920, and the early part of Freudo-Marxists Wilhelm Reich’s long career are given some explicit treatment.
As Colston spends such little time on the views of the multiple leftist Freudians he identifies, he hardly begins to uncover the hidden dimensions of psychoanalytic history he said were important. Nor does Colston attempt to examine the parameters of the leftism of the 1920s and early 1930s. This essay is about Left Freudians more in name than substance.
Overall, what is striking in this collection of essays is that on one hand, the psychoanalytic lens can turn on history and show the flaws in the discipline’s practices. On the other hand, a political, racially aware, history can illuminate where psychoanalysis needs some fundamental reconsiderations. Psychoanalysis, it is claimed, is culturally biased. Its frequent ignoring of the racial, imperialistic history of the West reveals that some of its foundational principles are ethnocentric, biased, and exclusionary at the core.
3. INTERVIEW WITH BRIAN CONNOLLY, AN EDITOR OF THE HISTORY OF THE PRESENT
by Ken Fuchsman
KF: How did the idea for the journal come into being? What are the purposes and mission of History of the Present?
BC: The idea for the journal came into being approximately 13 or 14 years ago when a group of historians – all of whom became the editorial collective – started thinking about the ways in which the discipline of history had marginalized critique and theory. While there was a sense in the 1980s and 1990s that the discipline had gone through a “linguistic turn,” by which most historians meant a turn to what has been called “theory” as a short-hand for French poststructuralism and its interlocutors (feminist theory, queer theory, etc.) by the early 21st century many historians were expressing relief that the discipline had emerged from this engagement. For those of us who founded the journal there was a sense that the turn had never really happened and that even if it had, we should not be celebrating a move away from critique and theory but further engaging it. So we became History of the Present as a journal that would focus on the intersections, often unruly, of critique and theory, on the one hand, and historical practice and research, on the other hand. The journal aims to pursue this and has done so for over a decade.
KF: Why is such a journal important to history given the current state of the profession?
BC: There are any number of reasons -critique opens up possibilities for thinking about the future, for interrogating the concepts and categories that structure the past, for moving against and beyond the often staid disciplining processes of historiography, all of which are minimized in contemporary historical practice – but one particularly vital reason at the contemporary conjuncture is that the ongoing “crisis” of the humanities has seen the decline of history majors and the evisceration of full-time, tenure-track faculty positions. One of the responses to this has been to push more empirical, publicly engaged history and to avoid the so-called obscurantism of critique and theory. While we have no illusion that a journal of critical history will solve the structural crises of higher education, which have been brought on in large part by short-sighted visions of austerity among state legislatures and university administrators, we do believe that giving up on the kind of critical thought the journal exemplifies will be a vital loss to historical knowledge. At its best, critical history as exemplified by History of the Present does not reduce itself to the instrumental demands of the profession, but pushes against the logic of those demands.
KF: How did your own experience in the history profession lead you to see the need for such a journal? The subtitle is A Journal of Critical History. What is critical history and what distinguishes it from other forms of history?
BC: I think it is best here to turn to the opening sentences of the editorial introduction from our first issue: “History of the Present is a journal devoted to a history as a critical endeavor. Its aim is twofold: to create a space in which scholars can refelct on the role history plays in establishing categories of contemporary debate by making them appear inevitable, natural, or culturally necessary; and to publish work that calls into question certainties about the relationship between past and present that are taken for granted by the majority of practicing historians. It is in the rigorous, theoretically-informed writing of history, based mainly in evidence from archives, texts, and other sources, rather than writing about ‘history’ from an abstract philosophical or historiographical perspective, that our contributors will offer readers an alternative to approaches that predominate in exiting journals.”
KF: There are a number of articles in History of the Present about history itself. One is a recent article of which you are co-author on Theses on Theory and History. There it is stated that history tends to produce scholars rather than thinkers and is founded on a methodological fetishism. Given our current state, why does the historical profession need thinkers?
BC: I think this is answered above, but one way to think about it is that if professional methodological concerns are important to producing skilled, capable historians (or any other kind of scholar) they can also be stultifying as they ask conformity to some methodological principle. The thinker, as proposed in the Theses, might best be thought of as someone who has a strong facility with the methods, but is not quite so disciplined by them. What we seem to forget, as historians or other professional scholars, is that the disciplines are not just the various organizations of knowledge that emerged in the 19th century, but they also do exactly what they say. The thinker, engaged with some versions of critique and theory (whether that is Marxism or psychoanalysis or critical race theory) is at once engaged in a critical project examining the objects and subjects of study and in critical tension with that disciplinary process.
KF: What is history’s methodological fetishism and what is wrong and right with it?
BC: Well, on the one hand it is rather simple – an uninterrogated attachment to some methodological principle. For example, for historians, a kind of descriptive engagement with archival sources that privileges that empirical reconstruction of the evidence to more closely apprehend historical experience. But, given the venue here, we might also think about it in Freudian terms – if the fetish both avows and disavows castration, we might think about the ways in which methodological fetishism avows and disavows the loss of the past that is the ever-present disruption of history. Archival, documentary research starts from the position, whatever else one might say, that the past is lost and what we have left to us are archival traces avowing that loss. The various methodological commitments tend toward the idea that whatever the presence of that loss, the reconstruction of that past through the evidentiary record can bring the past back to us, disavowing the loss.
KF: You have had special issues on sex and religion, a retrospective on Said’s Orientalism, the legacy of slavery before the 1619 Project, and more. How did these come about, and do you have others in the work for future issues.
BC: These have come about in a couple of ways. The special issues (sex and religion, slavery and the archive) came about from the research interests of some of the editors, who then worked with some of the leading scholars in the field who share our commitment to critical history. The other section, on Said’s Orientialism, or on Carole Pateman’s The Sexual Contract, or Denise Riley’s Am I that Name? came from a sense that there is something to be gained from returning to classics in critical thought in large part because for all of their influence there are always pieces of those text that get lost or forgotten, become what Foucault has called “subjugated knowledge.” Moreover, in those forums the intellectual engagement was, in a simple sense, what comes of re-engaging, closely, with a text from the past now, what do our contemporary readings bring to these works that may well not have been there at the time of their publication.
KF: How does the journal organize each issue?
BC: Each issue tends to be split into two sections – the first is 3-4 scholarly articles and the second a set of shorter interventions that make some particularly incisive and hopefully provocative claim on some issue in critique and history. However, we also tend to organize the issue the way we see best for each issue, so there is not a demand that very issue include “Interventions.”
KF: History of the Present is not only about history. For instance, for those involved with psychohistory you have published about adolescence, and psychology as science. Please comment on the broad scope of the journal.
BC: Well, the purview is history in the broadest sense, so we are much less concerned with whether the authors are historians and more concerned with publishing work that is historical and/or engaged in fields that can help readers think differently about how we conceptualize historical knowledge.
KF: Scholars are invited to submit to History of the Present. What are you looking for from contributors?
BC: We are looking for work that thinks historical, critically, and conceptually, that makes us not only rethink some historical period but also, and perhaps more urgently, unsettles the present conditions of life.
KF: What are you most proud of in the time History of The Present has existed?
BC: I’d say we are most proud of the fact that this field that is still seen as relatively marginal to the discipline has sustained itself for over a decade and in the process shown evidence of a vibrant intellectual and political community that sees the needs to rethink our historical relationship to the past, present, and future.
Brian Connolly, PhD is one of the founding editors of History of the Present: A Journal of Critical History. He is Department Chair and an Associate Professor of History at the University of South Florida, and is the author of Domestic Intimacies: Incest and the Liberal Subject in Nineteenth Century America (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014).
4. IPA’s 2022 CONFERENCE (May 19-21): GROUP IDENTITY AND THE SOURCES OF CONFLICT
By Brian D’Agostino
The first segment of our 2022 conference will be May 19-21 on Zoom, followed by virtual weekends on June 25-26 and October 8-9. For an article describing the featured presentations and myriad other papers in this 45th Annual Conference of the International Psychohistorical Association, please refer to our Winter 2022 newsletter at http:https://psychohistory.us/. For the complete program and to register, go to https://psychohistory.us/conference-and-membership.php.
“Group Identity and the Sources of Conflict”— the overarching theme of many conference presentations this year — is a rich topic that illuminates current events and connects to a vast scholarly literature spanning many disciplines. Psychohistory News solicited reflections on this theme from members of the IPA Leadership Team. Here is what they said:
Peter Petschauer: I identify myself as an American; most Americans probably do. I also identify as a European; most Americans do not, but people living in the south ID themselves as southerners. Because of massive immigration today, many people id themselves by political party. The Jews whom I know — about half of my friends — id first as such, maybe even as Russian Jews or, of late, as German Jews.
I first saw unique sources of conflict in the Caucasus. People id not with Russia or earlier the Soviet Union, but with their ethnic background: oh, he is an Ossetian, Tatar, Jew, etc. Of course, also important, they first id themselves as men or women! Women sat in the back. Men are strong and loud; at least that is the image and behavior. The war in the area, which ended destroying Grozny, had its roots in these identities.
Marc-Andre Cotton: It is my view that group conflicts are embedded in family dynamics. Inasmuch as we form our primary identity within the family circle as children, we tend to re-create family problematics in the social sphere by restaging as adults our earliest imprints. Conflicts arise in families when adults are confronted with unresolved issues stemming from their own upbringing and past traumas. Re-emergence of such traumatic memory in the intimate realm of households is seldom acknowledged. All too frequently, a child’s natural vitality and sensitivity triggers her parents’ coping mechanisms, leading to childrearing violence, emotional repression, and transgenerational transmission of traumas.
Likewise, conflicts arise in groups when a shared identity — serving as substitute for nurturing family bonds—is challenged by another group pursuing its own unconscious agenda. In such cases, subliminal fears of annihilation can be associated with the resurgence of deep emotional injuries and self-denial. To me, it is particularly helpful to view re-emergence of past traumas as a key concept in understanding group dynamics and conflicts. Healing can take place where a significant portion of the community is willing to consider the core value of self-awareness in bringing whatever sentiments that were displaced onto the social sphere back to the intimate.
Brian D’Agostino: Identification with one’s group appears to be a generalization of attachment to one’s mother, which has precursors in birds and mammals and confers obvious survival advantages on the young, who are more vulnerable than adults to predators in nature. It seems plausible that insecure attachment of humans in infancy gives rise to life-long disorders involving group identification. Superimposed on such early trauma, punitive parenting in later childhood creates the need to displace unconscious rage onto scapegoats, which are typically vulnerable outgroups, as well as idealization of one’s own group, represented by punitive authority symbols such as the militarized nation or the police (Milburn and Conrad, 2016).
These dynamics help explain white supremacism, authoritarian nationalism, militarism, and similar forms of toxic group identification currently wreaking havoc in the world. To fully understand these phenomena, however, we must also examine how they are simultaneously shaped by large scale historical factors such as the crisis of capitalist globalization, changing racial demographics in the United States, Muslim immigration in Europe, and geopolitical and international security considerations.
Inna Rozentsvit: The very complex topic of group identity could be looked at through the lens of cross-pollination between neuroscience, psychoanalysis, psychohistory, political psychology, and their established theories (Jost & Amodio, 2012), which enrich rather than compete with one another (Cacioppo et al., 2003). As Edward O. Wilson (1998) wrote almost 25 years ago in his Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge,“the social sciences are intrinsically compatible with the natural sciences. The two great branches of learning will benefit to the extent that their modes of causal explanation are made consistent” (p. 205).
So, which neuroscience contributions to this topic of group identity should we all consider? The ones that acknowledge emotional charge that, like a red thread, sews various parts of our identity into who we perceive ourselves to be, by gender, skin color, culture, religion, mother tongue, motivations for status quo or adventure, in-group or out-of-group belonging, “us” and “them” (LeDoux, 2000; Jost, Nam, Amodio, & Van Bavel, 2014). Our brains are always scanning our environments with an eye to such differences.
At the same time, the brain is highly plastic, learning is continuous, and our social identities change. Both survival and reason require openness to such change, and realizing this can make us comfortable with the tentative status of our group identities. Consistent with the law of consilience, bringing neuroscience to the psychohistorical discussion table will allow us not only to understand our differences, but to find peaceful solutions for conflicts, including those that are based on the group identities (Jost, Nam, Amodio, & Van Bavel, 2014).
These reflections provide some sense of the range and breadth of the theme, “Group Identity and the Sources of Conflict.” To appreciate the diversity of offerings on this topic, consider five papers scheduled for the June 25-26 virtual weekend. One will address the cultural, historical, and philosophical roots of racism and group identity. Members of the IPA Faith, Psychology and Social Justice Working Group will examine religion against the backdrop of evolution and the ultimate threat to group identity—death—as well the contrasting forms of group identity encompassed by the fundamentalist-humanist continuum. One paper in the June event will examine the evolution of anti-Semitism since antiquity, and another will take a Big History look at species consciousness in the face of the Sixth Extinction.
As in previous years, the 2022 IPA conference will also include papers that do not fall under the conference theme. The June 25-26 weekend, for example, will include a paper on what Michel Foucault called “biopolitics” (state capitalist control over people’s bodies and lives rather than territory) and three psychohistorical studies of writers and literature—on the life and work of Charles Baudelaire, on Virginia Woolf’s memoirs, and on the Greco-Roman classics as precursors of modern fascism. For the complete conference program and to register, go to https://psychohistory.us/conference-and-membership.php.
Cacioppo, J. T., Berntson, G. G., Lorig, T. S., Norris, C. J., Rickett, E., & Nusbaum, H. (2003). Just because you’re imaging the brain doesn’t mean you can stop using your head: A primer and set of first principles. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85, 650–661.
Jost, J. T., & Amodio, D. M. (2012). Political ideology as motivated social cognition: Behavioral and neuroscientific evidence. Motivation and Emotion, 36, 55–64.
Jost, J. T., Nam, H. H., Amodio, D. M., & Van Bavel, J. J. (2014). Political neuroscience: The beginning of a beautiful friendship. Political Psychology, 35(1), 3-32.
LeDoux, J. (2000). Emotion circuits in the brain. Annual Review of Neuroscience, 23, 155–184.
Milburn, Michael and Sherry D. Conrad (2016). Raised to rage: The politics of anger and the roots of authoritarianism. The MIT Press.
Brian D’Agostino, PhD is President of the International Psychohistorical Association. In the past, he has been editor of the Psychohistory News. Dr. D’Agostino is the author of The Middle Class Fights Back: How Progressive Movements Can Restore Democracy in America. His writings have been published in Political Psychology, the Journal of Psychohistory, Clio’s Psyche, and the Journal of Analytic Psychology. He earned his doctoral degree in political science from Columbia University.
5. Interview with Howard Stein
by Ken Fuchsman
Ken: Howard, you are known as the Renaissance man of psychohistory. Over your career, how many books have you published? What are the subject areas and disciplines which your work has addressed?
Howard:(1) Between 1977 (my first book) and 2022, I have published about 33 books and poetry chapbooks: as single author, co-author, and co-editor. 22 of these are scholarly books; 11 of these are poetry books and chapbooks.
(2) The (overlapping) disciplines in which I have published are anthropology, applied anthropology, psychoanalytic anthropology, medical anthropology, organizational anthropology, psychohistory, psychoanalytic study of organizations, organizational consulting, Slavic studies, Slovak/ Rusyn American studies and history, family medicine, medical humanities, family systems studies, family therapy, Balint groups in family medicine, American studies, popular culture studies, print and on-line poetry and literary journals/magazines, psychoanalytic organizational journals, and public newspaper and magazine essays offer all these perspectives to a reading public.
(3) The range of subjects addressed in my published scholarly articles/essays, chapters, books, and book reviews include: ethnicity in the US; ethnic identity and change in US; Slovak and Rusyn American family, cultural, and occupational life and identity, and cultural change; the white ethnic revitalization movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s; cross-cultural study of revitalization/nativistic/crisis cult movements; psychodynamic dimensions of Jewish identity and history, including responses to historical persecutions, exiles, and other catastrophes (Henry Krystal’s “massive psychic trauma”); steelworker history in US; the Age of Ronald Reagan; the Age of Donald Trump; Soviet-American relationships; white supremacy, racism and other us/them relationships and movements in US history; psychodynamics/ organizational/family/ community dynamics of deregulation; psycho-cultural dynamics of downsizing, rightsizing, reduction in force, reengineering, restructuring, offshoring, outsourcing, deskilling, managed health care; soul-murder and dehumanization in countless American workplaces; psychodynamic and cultural dimensions of alcoholism and drug addiction in the US; applied anthropological/psychohistorical poetry of many of the above topics; psychodynamically-informed methods of ethnographic, historical, and organizational inquiry; promoting organizational self-reflection and healing through group process analysis (such as at IPA), and in Balint groups for family medicine residents, interns, and faculty.
Ken: You have a doctorate degree in anthropology. What drew you to this field? What are the kinds of works you have published in anthropology?
Howard:In undergraduate study at the University of Pittsburgh (1963-1967), I had some outstanding, thoughtful, passionate professors in the Department of Anthropology. I was also “floundering” at that time about a career. I had majored in historical musicology as an undergraduate, but there were no jobs. I also briefly studied at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (New York), thinking I wanted to be a rabbi. I encountered in several rabbi-teachers rigid thinking, closed-mindedness, little soul/spirituality, which was opposite from “my” sense of Jewishness/Yiddishkeit/ and above all the chazzanut (cantorial chant, as from the Golden Age of early 20th century before the Holocaust . . . ). My Seminary experience made it clear that for most faculty and rabbinical students I encountered, I did not wish to become that genre or rabbi. So then what and where? In a sense, I found anthropology – in the most encompassing sense, not only “primitivology” – and anthropology found me. In graduate school, also at the University of Pittsburgh (1967-1972), I had some wonderful teachers and mentors, one of whom was Otto von Mering, a medical/psychoanalytic anthropologist, who became my dissertation advisor. I took an undergraduate course from him in ”culture and personality,” and he immediately recognized and nurtured my interest in unconscious dimensions of culture. Specifically, he permitted my reading of a lot of Erik Erikson’s writing to be incorporated into my official work in his classes and seminars. At the psychiatric institute where we worked, the librarian, a brilliant, encyclopedic man, in effect directed my informal readings in the early classics of psychoanalysis. In the years following graduate school (after 1972), I was blessed to have generous mentors in psychoanalytic anthropology such as Weston LaBarre, Melford Spiro, George DeVos, L. Bryce Boyer, and Vamik Volkan, who incorporated many anthropological perspectives in his psychopolitical writings. At the same time, I realized that in everything I did in anthropology, I was an applied (psychoanalytic) anthropologist, and was encouraged by many leaders/founders of the field, and by my long-time membership and participation in the High Plains Society for Applied Anthropology (which I joined in 1980, near its inception). In 2011, they honored me with the title and function of Poet Laureate of the HPSfAA.
Ken: What led you to branch out to other fields? How did the first endeavor outside of anthropology come about? What did it feel like to venture outside your academic specialty?
Howard: Ken, from what you have read so far, I think you know the answer I will give. I do not think of myself as having “branched out to other fields,” and in my own thinking, there was no “inside” or “outside,” even though the academic specialty I was trained in is anthropology. Early on, this led to my being an unpublishable persona non grata in much of mainstream academic anthropology. Quickly and over the long haul, various people, organizations, journals, book publishers and I “found” each other. I have been “adopted” many times – including by psychohistory, starting in 1977, with a long phone call from Lloyd deMause. Many generous clinicians and scholars in these fields, realized how inclusive my thinking and work was, and they directed me to people, readings, and often presentations at “their” conferences. I am not “self-made”; countless people and institutions have opened doors, let me in and let me stay.
Ken: You have been involved in psychological and psychoanalytic anthropology, psychohistory, and psychogeography. What has led you to be so psychologically oriented, and in such diverse areas?
Howard: I think I have partly answered these questions in what I wrote above. Unconscious currents that flow below the surface of human life, and which percolate upwards, have been part of my ordinary experience for as long as I can remember. Breadth does not exist without depth and its vast universe of imagination, fantasy, smokescreens, revelations (what insight feels like to me). I grew up in an emotionally-culturally-historically burdened Jewish extended family with roots to Rumania, Lithuania, “Russian Poland” (as my maternal grandfather called it), Germany, etc. Repeated loss, including pogroms and expulsions, uprootings, grief, rage, abandonment (literally and unconsciously amplified), absence of physical as well as emotional (inter-subjective, as we call it) safety, made the internal madness of my childhood home, and its echoes and reverberations from history on the large scale, all pre-disposed/ pre-adapted me to be exquisitely attuned to the slightest shift in tone of voice, of facial expression and gesture, which I experienced both “in the gut” and as feelings.
My mom’s psychotic depressions (one label), long periods of physical and emotional absence, tempered by welcome respites in which she sang “show tunes” and played these on our piano, all made life feel as though I and we lived on a dangerous tectonic “fault line,” in which (to change metaphors) ambush and death were always imminent. My father, whose early career as a promising violinist (in Chicago) was dashed by anti-Semitic roadblocks in America, the rise of Nazism in Germany and Europe, growing up with a highly religious father who was also a brutal alcoholic and gambler, could be alternately gentle, a patient teacher, a volcano of rage, and occasional physical violence. He also was the foundation of my deep love of classical music – which gave me access to emotional depths of a wide range of passions, and has been a life-long companion. The profundity of human life, later in my development embodied in the language, method, and theories of psychoanalysis, was for me as ordinary and natural as breathing (before I developed asthma, frequent pneumonias, and now COPD). Nothing human escaped the swift currents of the unconscious, within and between people.
Ken: How did you find out about psychohistory? What appealed to you about psychohistory?
Howard: My answer to your questions about my involvement in and with psychohistory and psychohistorians is also my (earlier) answer to your question about how I came to “venture beyond” anthropology. I never “ventured”! Psychohistory became another name for, and expansion of, my version of anthropology. I found out about psychohistory, which in the mid-1970’s I had not heard of, when sometime in 1977 I received a long, and life-changing, phone call from Lloyd deMause and Henry Ebel, whom I had not previously heard of.
They said they had been following my writing in already diverse fields and publications (e.g., ETHOS, Family Process, The American Scholar, The Psychoanalytic Quarterly, Cross-Currents, among others). They said that what I was doing in “psychoanalytic anthropology” was also and already psychohistory, and my work could contribute to the young field of psychohistory. They immediately invited me to submit an idea/abstract/and later-paper for presentation at the inaugural convention of the IPA in New York in June 1978. The theme of the conference was something like psychohistorical approaches to Judaism, Jewish history, and identity, on which I had already published several articles.
At the conference, I felt welcomed and included in the new community. My paper was highly controversial, prompting much discussion and often outright condemnation, including after its publication in The Journal of Psychohistory. Still, I felt increasingly embraced, was invited back, and became a “regular” at annual IPA conferences for many years. Many IPA folks quickly became dear friends as well as colleagues. They identified/labeled me as a fellow psychohistorian, in addition to my many other professional/scholarly identities. Over time, I learned enormously from psychohistorians, and I especially appreciated the presence of group-process analysis at the end of each conference day.
Ken: Describe your ideal of what psychohistory should be? How would you characterize what has made psychohistory valuable to you?
Howard: Once more, my answer to your questions here has in part been given in what I wrote above.
1) My ideal of psychohistory: complementarity of (a) rigorous historical (and other perspectives such as anthropology, political science, economics) scholarship; (b) disciplined use of psychoanalytic theory(-ies) grounded in and tested by historical (and other) data; and (c) vigilant attentiveness to the psychohistorian’s own countertransference that can be at once a source of distortion and bias, and a source of deep insight – based on the realization that all perception and interpretation of the external world is “filtered” by the unconscious self of the psychohistorian.
2) Psychohistory’s immense value to me includes the following: (a) openness of psychohistorians to the role of the unconscious to influencing/shaping many if not all dimensions of social life, including history and culture; (b) openness of psychohistorians to the role a baby and child’s experiences in his/her relationship with early caretaking/ parenting people play in influencing/ shaping subsequent adult fantasies, desires, transferences, re-enactments, and other behavior, individual and group, on the “stage” of history, culture, and society; I hasten to add that I fully realize that this openness often vied with theoretical dogmatism, including within the same person, often a leader, which in turn led to a major schism in the IPA, and the formation of The Psychohistory Forum and the journal, Clio’s Psyche, which was not bound to the theoretical model (evolution of childhood) of IPA founder Lloyd deMause; and the enduring presence of “tension” between theoretical and methodological perspectives of psychoanalytic clinicians and university-trained historians; (c) openness of many psychohistorians to experiencing and learning the presence and role of unconscious dynamics in history and culture through one’s own personal experience in small group process (its facilitation and interpretation) at the end of each day of the annual IPA conference; (d) development within the IPA of interest in visual, non-verbal forms of data of psychohistory, e.g., political cartoons (and a related method of fantasy/ metaphor interpretation) and film (of which Henry Lawton was the pioneer and advocate); (e) development of group-process analysis at the conclusion of each day of the annual IPA conference, which (ideally) encouraged participants to share feelings and fantasies evoked by the conference and small group, self-reflection on these experiences, and greater understanding of large-scale psychohistorical dynamics by recognizing many of these same unconscious forces in this small conference group.
Ken: Describe your interest in and experience in psychogeography?
Howard: Let me begin with an approximation of what psychogeography signifies to me and how I have used it since the early 1980’s. In individuals and groups, psychogeography refers to the projection (and its close relatives, projective identification and externalization) outward onto and often into places and people the unconsciously disavowed, despised, and sometimes idealized parts of one-self, fantasies, affects, desires, wishes, etc. These internal parts, in turn, are rooted in the human body, the baby’s experience of one’s body in relation to early caregivers, and the triadic and extended family. Sigmund Freud’s insight that the ego is originally a body ego is essential here.
The direction that human psychogeography places are from inside (one-self, self as identified with group) to outside, often thrusting those parts of one-self into the other, experiencing them as internal aspects inherent in the other (embodied), and often provoking the other (person, group) to enact these in relationships that range from, interpersonal to international. Simply put, at the unconscious level, parts of I are in Them, and are experienced as characteristics of Them and Not-Me. Commonplace examples of psychogeography are mountains, rivers, oceans, opposite sides of railroad tracks in towns and cities, neighborhoods, supposedly functional divisions in workplace organizations, enemies, allies. The affectively charged boundary (in mind, political, geographic) between Us and Them is a virtually universal example of psychogeography at work.
The many years I studied the psychodynamics of Soviet-American relationships during the intensely heated Cold War helped direct me to imagine the concept of psychogeography, and its related concept of “adversary symbiosis.” I wrote several papers and chapters on this and on the wider concept, all of which culminated in a book called Developmental Time, Cultural Space: Studies in Psychogeography (1987, 2nd ed 2014).
I must add here the immense mutual influence and friendship that Richard Koenigsberg and I have had since, I think, the late 1970s or early 1980’s, one that intellectually came to center around the idea of psychogeography. I wrote a book review of Koenigsberg’s 1975 book, Hitler’s Ideology, in which he combed Hitler’s speeches and writings, and discovered key metaphors that gave him, and in turn us, access to Hitler’s unconscious process. His central insight was that ideology (culture) is built from projections outward from the body. Koenigsberg soon saw this as the core of psychogeography. [See Review of Richard A. Koenigsberg, Hitler’s Ideology: A Study in Psychoanalytic Sociology. The Library of Social Science, 1975. Canadian Review of Studies in Nationalism, 6(1) (1979), 109-113.]
So, then, where did my own development and use of the concept of psycho-geography come from? The long-germinating precursor to psychogeography was projection in all its forms. It was only after two and a half decades of my life that I began to have and learn words for dark, disturbing, even terrifying feelings I harbored. From my earliest babyhood years I grew up as a Jew in a largely non-Jewish, Christian, often hostile world. I lived in the factory town of Coraopoplis, ten miles downstream from “The Point” where Pittsburgh began. My family and I were “projective targets” and “containers” for much of what was toxic in their lives and histories. I did not yet have the word Other in my vocabulary, but I knew I was it. My family and the handful of Jews in the factory town of my childhood and adolescence, Coraopolis, PA, knew that, even at some subliminal level, we had targets on our backs. We could not not be painfully aware of the pre-verbal psychogeographic metaphor. Ironically, we lived in an apartment building that was located a mere block-and-a-half from the real railroad tracks. If I did not know the word projection, I knew what it felt like to be the destination and housing of others’ projections. I also knew in my gut what psychogeography also looked and felt like. This, of course, is not the whole story of our lives in Coraopolis. As a merchant with a women’s clothing store, my dad had many friendly relationships with his customers, and he went far out of his way to get them affordable clothing.
In my mid-twenties, while in graduate school at the University of Pittsburgh, I did several years of ethnographic fieldwork in steel mill towns along the Monongahela River, which flowed west into the Ohio River at Pittsburgh. I worked with and studied the world of multi-generation Slovak and Rusyn Americans, many of whose men were steelworkers. Among the countless subjects I learned about during my three years of living in McKeesport, was a widespread belief in the “evil eye,” and the practice of rituals to ward it off or to try to cure it. This evil eye phenomenon thrived strongest in the immigrant generation from largely central and eastern Slovakia, and in the first generation born in the U.S.
The evil eye was believed to be, and was experienced as, powerful and dangerous. What seemed like an “evil,” hostile, glance from another person could cause harm, illness, even death. Babies were especially vulnerable to the malevolence of the evil eye. As I learned more about stories, memories, experiences associated with the evil eye, I began to recognize that much of it was rooted in unconscious projection and related defenses. I wondered where this projection was located. Perhaps projection dwelled both within people and in the inter-subjective space between people. A mental image began to take shape in me: of a family and cultural world of good people versus bad, evil people; us versus them. After I had written my dissertation and graduated with my doctorate, among the papers I wrote was one on the evil eye among Slovak and Rusyn Americans, published around 1974.
The accidental foray into so-called “folk beliefs and practices” was only a stone’s throw from ideas associated with psychogeography, boundaries, boundary violation, and the us/them polarity, not only among two ethnic groups, but maybe universally. In sum, my early experience as a Jew, and my ethnographic research, drew me to begin thinking about unconscious levels of human experience, and about the role of projection in particular. These gradually flowed into the later notion of psychogeography.
Ken: You were faculty at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Department of Family and Preventive Medicine for many (nearly 35) years. How did this experience contribute to your scholarship?
Howard:(1) For about 25 years, I facilitated/coordinated my Department’s Balint Groups, named for the Hungarian-born psychoanalyst/psychiatrist, who worked with small groups of British general practitioners on emotional/relational issues with their patients. I probably facilitated several thousand of groups, and expanded the scope of difficult relationships discussed from strictly doctor-patient to doctor (both resident trainee and faculty)-patient-family-medical staff-clinic/hospital organization. Balint groups are traditionally built around a “case” of an emotionally difficult relationship a doctor has with a patient. In the groups I facilitated, the “case” could be conflict-ridden group dynamics of a medical clinic, in which the resident trainee was “caught in the middle.” In my final years in the Department, my Chairman invited me to do with him what he called a monthly “Chairman’s Balint,” in which we discussed, as I tried to listen attentively to, the emotional reverberations of the countless organizational and leadership issues he encountered and addressed each day. Over the years I wrote several papers on my experiences in these Balint groups and used examples in several of my books. My book, Listening Deeply (1994, 2nd edition 2018), emerged as a kind of psychodynamic organizational research-and-consulting methods study.
(2) I conducted informal ethnographic fieldwork in the department, college of medicine, and health sciences center where I worked for nearly 35 years. I also consulted with various types of workplace organizations outside my own workplace. More widely, I “study” all the groups with whom I work, in order to be of some kind of help to them, to better understand myself and my relationships with them. I experienced and observed emotional brutality and “soul murder” in the daily life of dysfunctional health care departments and wider health sciences center organizations. I was also invited in the mid-1990’s by the CEO of the immense University Hospitals network in Oklahoma City, to consult with individuals and groups in their system over several years to help “humanize” the process of multiple waves of large-scale downsizing. I listened attentively to countless employees’ stories and helped them to feel listened to and taken seriously.
I eventually wrote about these as examples, stories of organizational psychodynamics/ psychohistory, the lived experience of toxic workplaces, the importance of “listening deeply” (the title of one of my books) and storytelling/story listening (the subject of a book I co-authored with Seth Allcorn, The Dysfunctional Workplace (2015), and in my organizational poetry. My longitudinal experience in Family Medicine (and other departments) in the OUHSC grounded me in my broader organizational psychodynamic studies, consulting, and publication. Much of this was done through my long friendship and collaboration with Michael Diamond and Seth Allcorn, about whom I have written elsewhere in this interview.
Ken: You have had two long term collaborations. One with Maurice Apprey and the other with Seth Allcorn. How did these come about? How did they aid your own development? What were the subjects covered with Maurice and then with Seth?
Howard: My long-term scholarly collaborations with Maurice Apprey (which began around 1980) and Seth Allcorn (which began around 1990) became quickly inseparable from our profound respect for each other, constant learning from each other, an attitude of Winnicottian playfulness in the creative space between us, and an ever-deepening friendship.
(1) I “met” Maurice Apprey on the telephone around 1980, around the time I became editor of The Journal of Psychoanalytic Anthropology. Maurice Apprey, a child psychoanalyst trained with Anna Freud, had recently come to the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. He was invited there by Vamik Volkan, who was already a close colleague and friend of mine. Dr. Volkan was encouraging Dr. Apprey to begin writing scholarly/clinical papers for journal publication. He knew that I edited the psychoanalytic anthropology journal, and suggested that Dr. Apprey call me and discuss the possibility of submitting a manuscript to this journal.
I encouraged him to do so. Dr. Volkan also asked that I help/mentor Dr. Apprey in the new, unfamiliar world of U.S. academic publication. A gifted thinker who attended to subtle detail, Dr. Apprey submitted a manuscript which, after review and editing, I published in the journal. That was the beginning of a flourishing development of ideas and grew into a lasting friendship. Dr. Volkan and Dr. Apprey invited me several times during the 1980’s to come to the University of Virginia in Charlottesville for several days, present some lectures/seminars on psycho-political-anthropological topics, and work with Dr. Apprey on what turned out to be four books. I was invited to stay (live and work) at both Dr. Apprey and Dr. Volkan’s homes, so that we could visit and work intensively, often non-stop, on these projects. I remember those intense days with great fondness.
(2) I met Seth Allcorn around 1990 through his colleague, frequent co-author, and friend, Dr. Michael Diamond, an organizational psychoanalyst trained in political science, and co-founder and president of the International Society for the Psychoanalytic Study of Organizations. Dr. Allcorn was at that time the Executive Director of ISPSO.
I had earlier received a phone call from Dr. Diamond, who introduced himself, his work, and his roles, and said that he had read many of my publications, including my earliest forays into understanding organizational psychodynamics, as researcher and consultant. Dr. Diamond said that in essence I was doing the same kind of methodological and theoretical work as he was, although I had never thought of myself as a student of organizational psychodynamics. Dr. Diamond invited me to submit a proposal to present a paper at the next ISPSO conference, which I believe was in Chicago.
At that conference, I met Dr. Seth Allcorn. Both Dr. Diamond and Dr. Allcorn and I quickly became friends and began collaborating on articles on organizational psychodynamics, our first endeavor being a year-long study of the experience of massive downsizing at a large urban health sciences center. It turned into a large case study, published in 1996. Dr. Allcorn spent his entire career as a health sciences center/university executive in various locations. Dr. Allcorn and I had frequent and lengthy telephone visits about the lived experience of working at all levels in organizations – including our own.
We soon inevitably began talking about the human experience of downsizing, reengineering, restructuring, outsourcing, etc. specifically, the emotional brutality with which these supposedly rational economic decisions were carried out, and the human toll both on those employees who were fired and those who at least temporarily “survived,” but with enormously increased work-loads, and living as if they always had a “target” on their backs. Scholarly papers and books, some individually, some jointly, authored books followed from this. Dr. Allcorn had long known I was also a poet, including poetry of organizational workplaces, and I sent many to him. He was ever-encouraging on my poetic as well as scholarly side, often ending a phone visit, later e-mail and Skype, with the refrain, “You know, Howard, there might be a poem in this!”
Over the past decade or more, Dr. Allcorn and I have had most of the time weekly Skype visits (which we came to call whiteboarding), consisting largely of free associations that eventually led “somewhere,” often to a paper, a chapter, or a book. Since our earlier work on downsizing (which continues in our time), we have come to expand the scope and boundary of our descriptive, evocative, and theoretical work to include deregulation and the Age of Trump. Most recently we have developed around thirty collaborative poems, which we are publishing in a book called Whiteboardings, to be published by Finishing Line Press in mid-2023.
Ken: You have published a number of poetry books? How did you start doing this? What have been the rewards of being a poet?
Howard: I have addressed some of this in the section above. I began writing poetry “seriously” in the late 1980’s, on a wide range of subjects, including organizational, cultural, political, and the Age of Trump. I have by now published at least 300 individual poems and about eleven poetry books and chapbooks (smaller books with around 30 poems). I have come to call my poetry “applied poetry,” that is, poetry grounded in the Real World of emotion, love, life, loss, in contrast to what is often called “pure poetry,” that is, since the mid-20th century, academic, university English department-based, mostly clever, abstract, abstruse, poems obsessed with language for itself rather than meaning and lived experience.
For me, writing, reading, publishing, sharing my poetry is about a different way of knowing, to complement (not replace or compete with), more standard, even official, linear, sequential, narrative, supposedly “rational and logical” thought, communication, planning (e.g., a lineal perception of time). Consider, for instance, organizational/ corporate mission and vision statements, strategic planning, action toward achieving specific outcomes/ objectives, and the like. In contrast to much of official, ordinary, and often enforced forms of Western thought over countless (?) centuries, poetry (what I am calling my own, as “applied poetry”) is “messy” (even in strict forms such as sonnet); rich in metaphor, simile, imagery, allusion, hint; giving wide berth to the imagination, reliance upon how words, phrases sound; creating space and access to the poet’s unconscious, letting go of thought rather than trying to control it; not knowing where one is going at the first thought of the poem, and knowing where one was going all along Only after one arrived at where the poem took you; trusting one’s own associations to take you, the poet, to where, in a sense, the poem wants to go; having a sense of “being written” by the poem instead of actively, consciously contriving and planning the poem (as, for instance, creating an “outline” before one composes an essay or action-plan).
In short, conventional lineal narrative is necessary, but not enough, not “sufficient,” to encompass (Winnicott’s “holding”) the full depth and breadth of human experience. Poetry – and I hope my own poetry – creates and expands inner, interpersonal (inter-subjective), and group space for discovering and creating new perspectives, new and deeper feelings, and new knowledge about self, other, the world, and the interplay between all these. I think and hope that my own poetry is not a simplistic “expressing myself” (a roaring lion is expressing him/her self!), but is genuine research, a surprising discovery of new knowledge that, say, empirical science has no access to. I learn so much from dimensions I could not have anticipated – including new knowledge about psychohistorical topics, and therefore, I hope, contribute to the “body” of psychohistorical knowledge, method, and theory.
One of my greatest joys in writing applied psychohistorical poetry – and sharing it – is the experience of being ambushed by thoughts, emotions, linkages/connections I could not have imagined before, what realization is about. There is the additional, often uncanny, sense of coming to know consciously what I had somewhat already known unconsciously. Finally, an additional joy in writing and sharing psychohistorical poetry is that it has become embraced and encouraged by so many psychohistorians in the IPA and Psychohistory Forum. There even is now a place in The Journal of Psychohistory and Clio’s Psyche, for the frequent publication of poetry. In a way, what was initially “mine” is now “ours.”
Ken: This last question could fill multiple volumes. You were raised in Pittsburgh in a Jewish family? What has being Jewish meant to you? How has it contributed to your scholarship and personal development?
Howard: I have addressed your questions in bits and pieces throughout your interview. As you know, one thread of deep interest and passion to me since the outset of my professional life (from, say, 1967, when I began graduate school, and the year of the fateful 1967 Israeli-Egyptian-Arab War) has been a psychodynamic approach to Jewish history and identity. I have written many papers and chapters about it, several of which are published since 1978 in The Journal of Psychohistory. The scholarly work must be evaluated on its own merit: argument, historical fact, psychodynamic interpretation. Yet this scholarship is also personal, part of my autobiography.
I think it is inseparable from my having been born (1946) and raised in a Jewish family, many members of whom were themselves immigrants from Rumania, Lithuania, “Russian Poland,” and Germany (the latter in the 19th century). Most of my dad’s Rumanian side of the family were killed in the Holocaust. My maternal grandfather’s family ultimately traces to generations of rabbis and scholars in Vilna/Vilnius, Lithuania. During an anti-Semitic outburst in the latter part of the 19th century, they emigrated/fled to what many people then called “Russian Poland” (product of the 1848 tri-partition?), opened a tavern and did what observant orthodox Judaism (not Hasidic) they could. Waves of brutal pogroms following the assassination of Czar Alexander II led them to flee to the U.S. My maternal grandmother’s side of the family, a rather established German Jewish professional family, came to the US toward the end of the 19th century; I do not know the circumstances of their emigration.
As if vicious anti-Semitism in Europe, and in subtler forms in the U.S., were not enough, in the hierarchy among European, and then immigrant American, Jews, there was also a range of idealization and veneration (Lithuanian and German Jews at the pinnacle), and eastern European full-bearded, orthodox Hasidic Jews (Ostjuden) and Rumanian Jews (Schwarze Yidn, pejorative Black Jews, supposedly unclean, uncouth, uncultured, peasant) at the very bottom – objects of ridicule, embarrassment, contempt, hatred, even exclusion from Jews of higher social rank. Us/them, human/inhuman, divides and splits played out within European and American Jewish life.
This toxic drama was played out in the little ghetto of my family in the apartment building my maternal grandfather owned and ruled like a Czar. Toward me, my grandpa was loving, tender, and huggingly tactile. Toward my Rumanian Jewish father and his entire large extended family, he was full of disdain, contempt, ridicule, and rage. As I wrote above, my maternal grandfather’s family were of the highest order of Orthodox, scholarly, rabbinical Lithuanian Jews, who looked far down on everything else. I lived, grew up, caught and trapped between them. Alternately I cowered, futilely tried to help mend the chasm between, took sides, and lived in constant fear in the cross-fire. My father told me often of how he tried to be patient and understanding of my grandfather and of the hard life his family had suffering Russian and Polish pogroms. These periods of compassion alternated with explosive rages, emotional and physical, in which he would smash dishes at the kitchen table, hit me with his leather belt and kick my behind with his shoed foot, and scream at my mom and me. We lived with his unpredictable rages that alternated with patience and tenderness. I lived with my mom’s vacillation between emotional presence and tenderness, and her emotional, and physical disappearance into psychiatric hospitals.
My childhood and later life were riddled – as with bullets – with many converging divides I could not mend. Among them included (and have long lived within me) the emotional (and relational) distance between my life in Coraopolis and my lengthy and intense Hebrew education and holy day worship in services in the conservative Jewish synagogue in the Jewish district of Pittsburgh (Squirrel Hill), about 25 miles away. From early in my grammar school, my dad had arranged with the superintendent of the Coraopolis schools to permit me to leave school about 15 minutes early before school let out for the day, to drive me four days a week to and from my Pittsburgh synagogue for Hebrew school. He also drove me to Sunday school.
In Coraopolis schools, I was often the Jewish outsider in a town largely composed of Italian, Hungarian, and Slovak Catholics, and an underpinning of long-established Anglo Protestant families. In Hebrew school in Pittsburgh, I was the often ridiculed and spurned Jewish outsider from the supposedly uncivilized, backward “boonies” of small-town (10,000 at its peak) Coraopolis. Their high status high school (Taylor Alderdice) was incomparably superior to my puny factory town high school. So, I was often (not always) The Jew to the Christian majority kids in the town where I lived; and I was the backward, hick-town Jew to the upper crust Jews in the Hebrew school I attended in Pittsburgh. I often felt ostracized and abandoned even among supposedly fellow Jewish classmates in the Big City. In both places, I was often Them rather than included in Us. I hasten to add that I experienced nothing of this rejection by the adult rabbi, cantor, and religious staff of the Schul in Pittsburgh.
Fast forward to my nearly 35 years of teaching in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City. Much of my experience with interns, residents, Physician Assistants, and many medical and non-medical faculty was cordial, even warm and kind. I worked especially with medical and farming folks in our rural Family Medicine residencies in Enid, Shawnee, and Lawton. I loved and respected my students and residents, often defended them from faculty//administrative/staff abuse. They showed much respect, kindness, and gratitude toward me. I virtually lived for this work and relationships as clinical teacher.
From the outset, however, with many medical and non-medical faculty, supervisors, division heads, and chairpersons, I experienced emotional abuse, deprivation of even-basic equipment to work, rejection, threat, ostracism. I wrote about this in workplace poetry since the early 1980’s, published in many places.
Two examples must suffice. In the early 1980’s the Department made a sweeping change with a new, dynamic, and charismatic chairman, and the new, young, dependent faculty and administrators he brought with him. He “cleaned house” over his first few months. In our first meeting, in his opulent office, we sat across a massive oak table. It was a getting-to-know-and-assess-you meeting, from his viewpoint. At one point, he suddenly brought up the topic of my religion, beliefs, and practice. He asked if I was a Jew, what were my core beliefs and practices, and whether I and these would fit within his new “corporate vision and mission.” I was stunned and terrified by his brazenness and display of raw power. I could not respond to him that these were both illegal and unethical questions. I felt I had been judged and warned, and that I would be under constant scrutiny for any deviation from his, his direct reports, and the Department’s mission. I felt condemned to be an outsider, even if he did not directly fire me. His anti-Semitism was undisguised “behind closed doors,” though neither he nor his administrative enforcers would ever publicly acknowledge he harbored any ill intentions toward me.
My second example: over my more than three decades in this Department, many managers and supervisors have taken me aside and criticized me in the openly Jew-hating language that was spoken by Nazi propagandists – this, no exaggeration, that I was part of a Jewish plot to take over the country and the world, that I was disobedient, never followed orders or the corporate mission, and that I was just like all the other Jews he/she had met and read/heard of. This harangue was inevitably followed by the threat that if I would ever say that this conversation took place, he//she would deny it, and that I would be in extreme trouble, even lose my job.
How did all this influence my scholarship? My life in my workplace led me to observe them carefully, as would an anthropologist (psychodynamically inclined) working “in the field.” I was attentive, became a good listener, was attuned to subtleties in communication and “hidden agendas,” and helped me to be a better organizational member, consultant, and scholar. More broadly, this attitude percolated into all my writing, both scholarly and poetry. This constellation is and remains quite common among Jews who often become not only keen, but aggressive intellectuals and academics.
I wish to end this brief journey into my life as a Jew (both as experienced from within and “objectified” and scrutinized from without – which I also internalized!) with a perhaps odd addition. One deeply abiding part of my Yiddishkeit was the profoundly moving Hebrew liturgy and cantorial chanting (chazanut), often with male choir. The Hebrew liturgy and music are abiding, sweet, comforting, inspiring parts of my self and soul. Certainly they are entwined with my love of classical music (mostly written by non-Jews). But the words and music of Hebrew prayer – that culminated in the Golden Age of Chazanut (late 19th and early-to-mid 20th century, devastated by the Holocaust that consumed so many great cantors) – have always been an emotionally and spiritually safe place, a refuge, a source of sustenance, for me, and a kind of sacred space for reminding myself what it is like to be alive.
Ken, thank you and bless you for listening to all this. Thank you so much!
Ken: Thank you so much, Howard.
BOOKS by Howard F. Stein
With Robert F. Hill. The Ethnic Imperative: Examining the New White Ethnic Movement. The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1977, 308pp. Foreword by Weston La Barre, Ph.D..
An Ethno-Historic Study of Slovak-American Identity (with new introduction). Arno Press/New York Times Press, 1980, 526 pp. (Ph.D. thesis, included in the Arno Press Collection: “American Ethnic Groups: The European Heritage”).
The Psychoanthropology of American Culture. The Psychohistory Press, 1985.
The Psychodynamics of Medical Practice: Unconscious Factors in Patient Care. University of California Press, 1985. [Selected for inclusion in the Publications List of the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine]
With Maurice Apprey. Context and Dynamics in Clinical Knowledge. Vol. 1 of the Monograph Series in Ethnicity, Medicine, and Psychoanalysis (H.F. Stein and M. Apprey, Series Editors). University Press of Virginia, 1985.
With William D. Grant, Behavioral Science in Family Medicine: A Program for Second and Third Year Family Medicine Residents. Dept. of Family and Preventive Medicine, Univ. of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, 1985. Published and distributed by the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine, Kansas City, Missouri. (Revised approximately annually).
Developmental Time, Cultural Space: Studies in Psychogeography. University of Oklahoma Press, 1987.
With Maurice Apprey. From Metaphor to Meaning: Papers in Psychoanalytic Anthropology. Vol. 2 of the Monograph Series in Ethnicity, Medicine, and Psychoanalysis. University Press of Virginia, 1987.
With the Committee on International Relations, Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry. Us and Them: The Psychology of Ethnonationalism. GAP Report #123. Brunner/Mazel, Pubs., 1987.
Coedited with William G. Niederland. Maps From the Mind: Readings in Psychogeography. The University of Oklahoma Press, 1989. Foreword by Vamik D. Volkan, M.D.
With Maurice Apprey. Clinical Stories and Their Translations. Vol. 3 of the Monograph Series in Ethnicity, Medicine, and Psychoanalysis. University Press of Virginia, 1990. Foreword by G. Gayle Stephens, M.D. [Selected for inclusion in the Publications List of the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine].
American Medicine as Culture. Westview Press, 1990. [Selected for inclusion in the Publications List of the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine]. Paperback edition -Westview Press, March 1993.
With Maurice Apprey (first author). Intersubjectivity, Projective Identification and Otherness. Duquesne University Press, 1993. Foreword by James S. Grotstein, M.D.
Coedited with Robert F. Hill. The Culture of Oklahoma. The University of Oklahoma Press, 1993. Foreword by Fred R. Harris, former United States Senator from Oklahoma. Reprinted in 1996.
Listening Deeply: An Approach to Understanding and Consulting in Organizational Culture. Westview Press, June 1994. Foreword by Michael A. Diamond, Ph.D.
The Psychoanalytic Study of Society. Volume 19. L. Bryce Boyer, Ruth M. Boyer, and Howard F. Stein, co-editors. Analytic Press, 1994.
The Dream of Culture. Psyche Press, 1994. Foreword by Robert Endleman, Ph.D.
Co-authored with Seth Allcorn, Howell S. Baum, Michael Diamond. The HUMAN Cost of a Management Failure: Organizational Downsizing at General Hospital. Quorum. Books, 1996. Foreword by Roderick W. Gilkey & Gary R. Lieberman.
Prairie Voices: Process Anthropology in Family Medicine. Bergin & Garvey, 1996. Foreword by Lynn Flint, Ph.D.
Euphemism, Spin, and the Crisis in Organizational Life. Foreword by Seth Allcorn, Ph.D. Quorum Books, 1998.
Evocations. Dorrance Publishing Co., Inc., 1998.
Learning Pieces (foreword by Dr. Warren Lee Holleman, “Art in Medicine” editor, The Journal of Family Practice). Dorrance Publishing Company, 2000.
Nothing Personal, Just Business: A Guided Journey into Organizational Darkness. Quorum Books. Foreword by David G. Friedman, M.D., 2001.
Co-authored with Dr. David Levine. A Low Autumn Sun. (A book of photographs and poems) Broken Tree Press/BookSurge, 2003.
Beneath the Crust of Culture: Psychoanalytic Anthropology and the Cultural Unconscious in American Life. Rodopi Editions B.V. Contemporary Psychoanalytic Studies. Jon Mills, Series Editor, 2004.
Improving Medical Education: Enhancing the Behavioral and Social Science Content in Medical School Curricula. Report written with Institute of Medicine Committee on Behavioral and Social Science in Medical Education. Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, Board on Neuroscience and Behavioral Health. Washington, 2004.
Sketches on the Prairie. Finishing Line Press, 2004.
From My Life. Finishing Line Press, 2005.
Insight and Imagination: A Study in Knowing and Not-Knowing in Organizational Life. University Press of America/Rowman and Littlefield Publishing Group, 2007. Foreword by Burkard Sievers.
Theme and Variations. (A book of poetry). Finishing Line Press, 2008.
Seeing Rightly with the Heart (a book of poetry). Finishing Line Press, 2010.
In the Shadow of Asclepius: Poems from American Medicine. Foreword by Jack Coulehan, M.D. Dog Ear Publishing, 2011.
Developmental Time, Cultural Space: Studies in Psychogeography (2nd ed.). Foreword by Dr. Richard A. Koenigsberg. Library of Social Science, 2013.
Raisins and Almonds. (A book of poetry). Finishing Line Press, 2014.
Light and Shadow: A Book of Poems. Doodle and Peck Publishing, 2016.
Listening Deeply (2nd ed.). University of Missouri Press, 2017.
Centre and Circumference: Poems by Howard F. Stein. ORI Academic Press/ MindMend Publishing Co, 2018.
Light and Shadow: A Book of Poems (2nd ed.). Doodle and Peck Publishing, 2018.
“Refugees,” “Unclaimed,” In: What They Bring: The Poetry of Migration and Immigration. Irene Willis & Jim Haba, Eds. International Psychoanalytic Books (pp. 97-99), 2020.
Presence – Poems from Ghost Ranch. Terra Nova Books (Golden Word Books imprint), 2020.
(with Seth Allcorn, second author). The Psychodynamics of Toxic Organizations: Applied Poetry, Stories, and Analysis. Routledge, 2020.
(with Seth Allcorn, first author). Psychoanalytic Insights into Social, Political, and Organizational Dynamics: Understanding the Age of Trump. Routledge, 2021.
(with Seth Allcorn, second author). Whiteboardings – Creating Collaborative Poetry in a Third Space (A book of poetry). Finishing Line Press, in press, mid-2023.
Dr. Howard F. Stein started attending psychohistory conferences in the late 1970s. He is professor emeritus from the University of Oklahoma, and is an extraordinarily prolific author in a variety of fields. Howard is on the Leadership Council of the International Psychohistory Association, and is a featured speaker at the May 2022 psychohistory conference.
6. TRANSGENERATIONAL TRAUMA AND RESILIENCE: POST-CONFERENCE ESSAY
by Inna Rozentsvit
On March 5-6, 2022, we hosted the virtual conference Transgenerational Transmission of Trauma and Resilience: From Awareness to Working Through:
The conference included 11 presenters, professionals from the fields of psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, psychohistory, neurobiology, sociology, education, and others. Each speaker offered various theoretical, clinical, and sometimes, very personal and vulnerable perspectives on transgenerational trauma and resilience.
When we talk about transgenerational trauma, we imply that traumatic experiences of the family or group members impact the development of their children or grandchildren, while they might not even know about the traumas of their parents and grandparents; sometimes they do know, but often they don’t. How is this possible? As a neurologist, I always try to “localize” the problem and make sense of symptoms. But to understand transgenerational trauma, many of our presenters had to dig deeper: as Theodore Roethke once said, “In a dark time, the eye begins to see.”
This article presents a short summary of each presentation:
Martin Miller: Traumatic Injury of Transgenerational Trauma – A Challenge for Psychotherapy
In his presentation, Dr. Martin Miller said that, for traumatized individuals, “there is no present and no future, just the past repeating itself over and over again,” and that their feelings, sensations, and physical experiences are the main triggers that activate their memories. He examined how our memory system is divided into two main areas: explicit memory and implicit memory. Explicit memory includes declarative memory (which stores facts in a “shopping checklist”) and episodic memory (which is about something we experienced, but which is transformed/influenced by our feelings and emotions). Implicit memory (which consists of emotional and procedural memories) is unconscious and not accessible to us cognitively. In some cases, emotional components of implicit memories protect us, like reactions of fear when sensing danger (such as the fight or flight response). They can also propagate trauma, causing a traumatized individual to relive the horrors of trauma time and again, and to live in the past. As Dr. Miller said, “Bottom line, memories form the foundation of our identity. Amongst other things, we attach our humanity to them.”
David P. Celani: Internalization of Childhood Trauma and Reenactment in the Next Generations
Dr. Celani reviewed Ronald Fairbairn’s Object Relations theoretical ideas, which proposed that the unconscious develops in childhood and contains dissociated memories of parental neglect, insensitivity, and outright abuse that are impossible for the children to tolerate consciously. Dr. Celani examined three components of trauma, as it can be seen through the Fairbairnian lens: a) every self needs an object to create a personality; b) dissociation is the mechanism of displacing unacceptable events into a child’s unconscious; c) the trauma causes internalization in the child which creates a view of the self and a view of the object. A traumatized child is faced with two options: life or death. Children almost always choose life, but that choice and their view of themselves are shaped by the objects around them, which – in traumatic situations – are their abusers. This child’s viewpoint of other people and the self then shapes that child’s interactions and relationships, both personal and professional. And, when the traumatized children have children of their own, the viewpoints they developed to survive are then handed down to their children. And this continues and continues.
Marc-André Cotton: Family Secrets and Transgenerational Transmission of Trauma: How to work them through? – A Personal Path of Awareness
Marc-André shared his personal journey in working through transgenerational trauma. Initially, he believed he had not personally experienced transgenerational trauma. However, following some investigation, he uncovered the influence of traits inherited through transgenerational trauma and its impact on his life. Marc-André walked participants through what he learned about his family’s trauma history, his innate responses and reactions to certain triggers he did not understand, and he shared the power of engaging on a healing journey to make changes for future generations of his family.
Doris Leicher: Two Unusual Cases of Transgenerational Trauma and Its Mourning That Lead to Healing
Doris took participants through the power of both positive and negative experiences in working through healing from transgenerational trauma. Being reared in post-WWII Germany had a profound impact not just on Doris, but on an entire generation of children. She shares how her family history of trauma shaped her viewpoint of the world. Doris discussed coping with depression, seeking help and ultimately finding her own voice using art for expression after feeling silenced most of her life.
Gabriella Becchina: From the Big Apple to the Big Olive: A Family Cookbook Turned Multigenerational Memoir
A move from New York to Sicily and plans to write a cookbook became a recipe for investigation when Gabriella began to figure out the family puzzle. Gabriella explains the cultural impact of living in a small rural area, big on gossip, but where any personal problems are internalized and kept secret. Gabriella explained her family’s history of codependency, abuse, cultural stigmas and her struggles with PTSD.
Inna Rozentsvit: Dreaming the Memories of Our Parents: Understanding Neurobiology of Transgenerational Trauma and the Capacities for Its Healing
During my presentation, I tried to reconcile some of my personal history, recurring nightmares during my first analytic training, and some questions that my parents never answered – about why our family is so small, as well as the discovery of their journals that I never knew about until sometime after both of my parents passed away. All this helped me to uncover the meaning behind my dreams: they were manifestations of traumas related to antisemitic atrocities experienced by my mom’s family that lived in Ukraine (before 1917 revolution and before and during WW2), and my dad losing both parents at the age of 12 (when the family was running away from Nazis in Romania – to the Soviets)… I never felt traumatized myself, but overwhelmed by deep sorrow for my family and many other families who were in similar situations.
My task at this conference was also to explain – neurobiologically – how people can experience horrific trauma legacies, even if they were not traumatized themselves. So, I spoke about epigenetics that are responsible for gene regulation/ expression, which can be affected by traumatic experiences. This way, our ancestors’ (blueprint of life) DNA can stay the same, but the genes cannot be expressed fully – because of epigenetic phenomena. But, the good part is – epigenetic changes can be “shaken off,” like etch-a-sketch, if there is awareness and eagerness to work on it. As they say, if there is a will, there is a way, and we can employ our capacities for neuroplasticity, neurointegration, neuronetworking via connectomes, fire-together–wire-together and don’t-use-it-lose-it processes – to rewire our brains and minds.
Eva Fogelman: Myths and Realities about Intergenerational Transmission of Trauma
Dr. Fogelman stated that where we find the problem and how we relate to a particular problem have to do with where we come from. As a child of Holocaust survivors, Dr. Fogelman has worked extensively with groups that have experienced societal and cultural traumatization: Holocaust survivors, Indigenous people, and African-Americans. Dr. Fogelman says that the transmission of trauma is scientifically shown to be passed down through the generations, especially in ethnicities and cultures such as those who have survived mass genocide events.
Peter Petschauer: Trauma Lingering in Groups, Families, and Individuals: Americans and Germans
Dr. Petschauer addressed four types of trauma: 1) Trauma that ceases with the person, in many cases, this is due to a violent crime or suicide. 2) Trauma transmitted from one person to the next either through biological connections or the bonds of relationship. This could also be trauma within families, such as transgenerational trauma that appears despite a family keeping the trauma a secret. 3) Rolling trauma (group trauma) is massive trauma for whole societies such as the Holocaust, Indigenous genocide or African slavery. 4) Chosen trauma is trauma selected by society, typically with a central leader that then uses it for political gain or to gain some type of power over another religion, race or gender. Rolling Trauma and Chosen Trauma have been seen in American, German, Ukrainian and Russian histories, among many others.
Amy C. Hudnall: Teaching with Trauma: Interrogating the Layers of Trauma in the Classroom
Historian Amy Hudnall presented on the methods teaching about multigenerational trauma in college, specifically transgenerational trauma related to genocide. She also outlined the supportive resources available to students to build a bridge when learning about but simultaneously coping with material related to trauma. Amy Hudnall’s goal in teaching about genocide is not only to help students with facts but also to try and bring into focus some of the worst acts in the history of humanity to educate and change the patterns for future generations.
Jun Lu: Do Not Say We Have Nothing: The Haunting Legacies of the Cultural Revolution in China
Jun Lu is a PhD candidate and gave her personal insights into the trauma of the cultural revolution in China. In her presentation, she examined how an entire culture could become violent and irrational when an idea is widely accepted by the masses. The death of her grandmother became the catalyst for seeing an analyst and through their work together, Lu found that her grief and mourning consisted of multiple layers, that the wounds she felt had been inflicted by her parents, were also the same wounds her mother had carried. In large part, these transgenerational traumas were influenced by natural disasters, military regime changes and punishment for protestors and those who did not fall in line with what was being widely accepted.
If you attended the conference and gained valuable information from the presenters and insight on transgenerational trauma, you may be thinking, “What’s next?” What do you do with the information you have learned? This is a great opportunity to reflect on your own assumptions, behaviors, and your relationships, both personal and professional, and to examine how transgenerational trauma might manifest itself in your life. Do you sometimes feel angered or triggered by something and you don’t see a clear correlation as to what has caused this emotion? It could be transgenerational trauma. If something seems “off” it may not be because of anything that directly happened to you but, as our team of experts explained, because of the DNA regulation/expression you inherited. This type of self-awareness helps us take control of feelings and emotions and process them in a more healthily manner.
The beautiful thing about your brain is that it can change. This is called neuroplasticity. As we explained, neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially in response to learning or experience, or following physical or mental injury. The same way trauma caused the transformation of our ancestors’ brains and genes, we can do the work to transform our own brains and minds positively, countering past negativity and harm, in order to live happier and more vibrant lives for generations to come. Not only for them, but for yourself. You can use the knowledge from this conference to accommodate change.
We would encourage you to practice accommodation rather than assimilation of trauma/ traumatic experiences. Assimilation when dealing with your emotions and behaviors can consume your being. Assimilation is the absorption and integration of people, ideas, or cultures (Oxford Dictionary). What our relatives experienced and endured, what society tells us about how we should act or look does not have to be something we conform to, especially if we believe it to be harmful to our personal values. As for trauma, allowing it to assimilate in our being often means that it penetrates all and every fiber of our souls and our beings.
Instead, accommodation gives us all a seat at the table (and the trauma too). It does not define who we are, consume our feelings or dictate our behavior. Accommodation by definition means compromise. In presenting itself, transgenerational trauma allows for a compromise with history, and so that we may acknowledge the pain and look to methodologies, such as psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, or even self-development programs, for help with changing how we process our emotions.
We can heal. Life does not have to be doom and gloom because your grandmother experienced great trauma or because your father dealt with incarceration or abuse. We have a choice, and this choice starts with awareness of the possibilities of transgenerational phenomena. It continues with understanding that things can change, and that we can use self-directed neuroplasticity to effectuate any change. The journey of working with transgenerational trauma is not an easy one, but worth undertaking.
Dr. Inna Rozentsvit is a neurologist and neurorehabilitation specialist, trained in psychoanalysis, who dedicates her professional life to creating care teams for people with neurological conditions and their families. She is also involved in neuropsychobiology research, as it pertains to transgenerational and other trauma, psychosomatics, emotional and personal development, parenthood, and psychohistory. She can be reached by email at
7. KAREN L. FUND’S SURROGATE: A BOOK REPORT
by Ken Fuchsman
History and psychology have led to innovative situations with dramatic emotional ramifications. If in the past a woman wanted to be a mother, her options were limited. She could become pregnant and carry the baby to term, she could adopt, become a step mother. Technology has dramatically expanded these alternatives. These days a woman’s eggs could be frozen, she could receive donor eggs, go for intrauterine insemination (IUI), in vitro fertilization (IVF), ovulation induction (OI) or have a surrogate carry a child inseminated by a male of her choice, often her husband or partner.
What follows are the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of a woman who eventually chose a surrogate to carry a child she would mother. They are recounted in Karen L. Fund’s Surrogate: How a Woman Named Sandra Made Me a Mother (International Psychoanalytic Books). This is a rich story with many dimensions and emotional downs and ups. As well as Karen Fund’s narrative, there are also contributions from her husband, psychoanalyst and historian David James Fisher, the surrogate Sandra, and one of the two children Sandra carried for Karen and Jim, as Karen calls him. The book is also an account of the 60s generation as it goes from youth to mid-life.
According to David James Fisher’s biographical account, Karen was born in 1947 in Riverdale, New York and grew up in Englewood, New Jersey. She was one of 78.3 million baby boom children born in the U.S. between 1946 and 1964. Her family was affluent. Her father was a venture capitalist, a World War II marine, in college he played football at the University of Alabama. As well as raising Karen and an older sister Thea, Karen’s mom was an interior designer.
Karen came into late adolescence as radical politics and cultural radicalism were flourishing. She learned to play the bass guitar, played in a rock band called the Jagged Edge that appeared at the famous Night Owl Cafe in Greenwich Village. The music that most appealed to her were Dylan, the Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, among others. Her group accompanied Donovan in 1966 in Los Angeles. In politics, she participated in anti-war demonstrations in New York and Washington D.C., and was actually arrested for improperly getting into the Nixon White House. Karen was also drawn to the revival of feminism in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The feminist figures that she admired were more centrist than separatists, and this includes journalist and activist Gloria Steinem, and Congresswoman Bella Abzug. Many American sons and daughters born like Karen during the baby boom were active in the counterculture, leftist politics, and the sexual revolution.
To prevent becoming pregnant, Karen initially took the newly popular birth control pills, but found the side effects unpalatable. Looking for an alternative, she followed her doctor’s advice that the Copper 7 Dalcon Shield IUD was safe and would alleviate her problems. She had the IUD put in her. As did many, her periods were extremely heavy, and she had cramps. Her doctor assured her this was all a normal occurrence. But the problems continued. Eventually the doctor did an X-Ray and discovered the IUD was not in the cervix as thought but had entered the wall of Karen’s uterus. It was upside down. As Karen writes, “years later I was to learn that the entire time the IUD was in my body, it was undetectably scarring the inside of my fallopian to the point where nothing again would ever pass through them…; an egg would never be able to move down the normal way.” But it was years and years before this diagnosis was made. Karen would go through many failed attempts to become pregnant before this disability was actually found out.
Before finding out what was wrong with the IUD in her body, she had abandoned the unruly world of rock music and entered journalism in 1973. She became a founder of a trade periodical for film and video, called Millimeter. In 1978, she met and fell in love with Jim Fisher. A few years later she became a sales person for the relatively new L. A. Weekly, which covered music, film, and other arts in the Los Angeles region. Not long afterward she was promoted to associate publisher. Karen had found a niche for herself, as she became a sales person with a magic touch. She and her staff brought a great deal of revenue into the paper. Her career path was becoming set. Again, as with many in the 60s generation as she moved into her late twenties and early thirties she found a fulfilling career path for herself, one that tapped resources and talents that she had not previously explored.
She and Jim married. Karen now wanted to fulfill a lifelong dream of becoming a mother. She and Jim tried right away to have a baby. But after a year of these efforts when she was 35 and she had not gotten pregnant, she went to a doctor. After blood tests, one hypothesis was that the environment of her vagina was not receptive to her husband’s sperm. But it turned out that was a false conjecture. Next, to help her conceive, Karen was given hormones. A side effect for her was constant depression, as well her gums were puffy and bleeding. Furthermore, she did not get pregnant. The next method was to have Jim’s sperm inseminated into her. That also did not result in conception. Finally, a laparoscopy was performed. It showed that the way the IUD had landed left sufficient scar tissue.
Surgery was performed to remove scar tissue, and hopefully there would be a window where she could conceive before the tissue grew back. But again, she did not become pregnant. Karen eventually recognized that she had “become one of the thousands of women who were permanently sterilized from the Copper 7 Dalcon Shield” IUD.
Emotionally dealing with this recognition was a trial. She says that in work and life “I was nothing if not tenacious.” Now she was unable to get pregnant. She felt a “sadness and growing bitterness” and looked for alternatives. Private adoption seemed like an option. In addition to the expense of paying an adoption attorney and installing a separate phone line, Karen felt both humiliated and manipulative. She and Jim decided against adoption.
That left surrogacy, which was legal in California, and therefore in Los Angeles, where they lived. Karen and Jim soon learned of Nina Kellog, a psychologist in private practice who arranged surrogate adoptions. Connecting to Dr. Kellogg turned out to be excellent for them. Kellogg would screen women who wished to be surrogates to make sure they had the proper character and motivation. An interview with a potential surrogate, named Llana was arranged. Anticipation of this encounter awakened anxiety in Karen. She says,” I was beyond sick” full of “apocalyptic dread and fear.” She felt that she could be “judged whether I was worthy or not worthy… I didn’t talk to anybody about it.” The meeting went well, they were honest and open with each other. Llana explained she had always easily gotten pregnant. Later that night, she agreed to try to carry the baby and then have it the child be raised by Karen and Jim.
This was not just a business arrangement. A friendly relationship developed between Llana, Karen, and Jim. Still, given a highly publicized instance where a surrogate decided to keep the child, after the baby was born, Karen initially had worry that a surrogate might decide to that to her and Jim. Still, they went ahead, and Jim started to give sperm so that Llana could be inseminated and conceive. Llana became pregnant. As Karen writes, the “joy was indescribable.” But then Llana miscarried. Karen was devastated. She writes, “it was like God saying to me, ‘don’t even think about it. Don’t even play with the idea because you will never have a child.” After three or four months, the process of trying to have a baby. Again, Llana got pregnant, but again things went awry, and the baby was lost. Llana had lost her second fallopian tube. This process with Llana had gone on for two years. Though Llana would not be a surrogate, Jim, Llana, and Karen remained in contact. A child had not resulted, but a precious connection had been formed.
Karen described herself as tenacious. There was also another side to Karen in addition to her tenacity. After the two years with Llana, as she writes, “a part of me had died and I had given up.” She had “reached the point of despair.” When Nina said she had another possible surrogate, Karen said to her husband that maybe they should stop. But Jim touched the part of her that still had hope. Jim and Karen returned Nina’s call.
The psychologist described the new candidate, Sandra, as a married woman with three children, and added how solid and remarkable she found Sandra to be. A meeting was scheduled. In anticipation, Karen’s anxiety was reawakened. “I didn’t know if I could live through any more crushing blows… I felt fear, and in a strange way, scared for my life.” When the meeting began, Karen was struck by Sandra’s radiance. Her and her husband, Chip, married as teenagers, and after their third child was born Chip had a vasectomy. Sandra also talked about the centrality of their Christian faith. Jim and Karen shared their experience with Llana.
Sandra later that night affirmed that she would wish to be a surrogate for Karen and Jim. Sandra did become pregnant. Karen though was afraid that Sandra would change her mind. Fearful of Sandra miscarrying, during the first trimester, Karen could not sleep. During the second trimester, at a doctors’ visit with Sandra, Chip, Jim, and Karen present, a sonogram showed the tiny fetus. Karen cried on Sandra’s shoulder. As the pregnancy unfolded, Karen remained concerned that Sandra would wish to keep the baby. Even though Karen believed Sandra was solid in her wish to have Karen and Jim have the baby once born. Eventually, Sandra went into the hospital to give birth. With Karen, Jim, and Chip present, Sandra had the ordeals that childbirth can bring to a pregnant woman, and then the frequent miracle, a child was born, a boy. The doctor came over to Karen and said “Would the mother like to come and cut the cord?” She did so. When Karen first got to hold her son, she went directly to Sandra and put the baby between her and Sandra on the bed. Karen could not stop saying Sandra’s name and Karen could not stop crying. Right afterwards, she went over to Jim with their child.
The date of the birth was February 7, 1991. They named the baby Benjamin David. The following Mother’s Day, Sandra called Karen and Jim and said being a surrogate was one of the happiest experiences of her life, and then added would Karen and Jim like a sibling for Benjamin. They did and on August 16, 1993, Chloe Bess was born. Jim and Karen’s family with a son and daughter was now complete. Karen’s narrative ends.
This is immediately followed by Jim’s essay, “Karen L. Fund In Context.” I have already borrowed from this paper in describing Karen’s life in the early part of my account. I now resume the story. The year after Benjamin was born, Karen’s career continued to flourish. As functioning Chairperson of the L. A. Weekly Board, she negotiated a contract that sold the Los Angeles paper to New York’s legendary Village Voice. As a mother, Dr. Fisher writes that Karen “transmitted to the children her sense of compassion, sympathy…and learning how to relate to others in a sensitive and not self-centered way.” She wanted them to “be self-aware, and function as responsible citizens and members of the community.”
Something else happened. In late 1999, Karen Fund found she had Hepatitis C, a serious disease. She had various treatments, including the ordeal of chemotherapy, and in the last four years of her life developed auto-immune diseases that on some days were agonizing. Characteristically, Karen remained courageous. She passed away at the age of 65 on November 28, 2012. As Jim Fisher writes, “Karen lived and died with a generosity of spirit that was exceptional.” Her life lives on with her husband and her two children. Benjamin David celebrated his 31st birthday earlier in February, and Chloe Bess is now 28.
The psycho-emotional paths of those active in 60’s movements are like a rainbow. There are many colors. Karen L. Fund’s life contains many such hues. As a 1958-1963 TV series about the metropolis of New York City proclaimed, there are eight million stories in the Naked City. The same is true for baby boomers. Each drama is revealing of our protean selves, the many twists and turns in the richness and complexities of life. Choices are made with deep ramifications. Many, like Karen Fund, wish to carry on the life trail of humans, to become a parent. If this transpires, one generation nurtures another, and that continues on and on as the arc of the life of Homo sapiens unfolds.
If an American Caucasian married female came to adulthood in 1800, she would likely have had 7 children. A century later in 1900 that Caucasian wife would have averaged about half of that, 3.56 children. In 2000, it would be 2.05. Karen Fund came into the childbearing years closer to the millennium. Given the innovations in medicine and technology, she both paid the price for the birth control method she tried, and newer advances allowed her to fulfill her hopes of being a mother. Not only once, but twice.
Karen has many legacies, but among them are a son and daughter. This was so important for her, and finding a way to become a parent led her down many unexpected roads. She had many burdens to bear before her dreams came true. While there are 8 million stories in the Naked City, Karen’s is one of 78.3 million baby boom tales. As with the others, hers is a rich story worth telling.
May Karen rest in peace. May her and Jim’s children find fulfilling life paths.
8. BULLETIN BOARD
AUGUST 2022 VIRTUAL CONFERENC NOTICE
On August 14 and August 20, 2022 the International Psychohistorical Association will co-sponsor a free, virtual conference based on the International Handbook of Love: Transcultural and Transdisciplinary Perspectives, published last year by Springer. It is edited by Claude-Helene Mayer And Elisabeth Vanderheiden, who will both be among the ten presenters at the conference. For more information contact .
CLIO’S PSYCHE AND THE PSYCHOHISTORY FORUM
Forthcoming Clio’s Psyche Issue
The topics of the spring 2022 issue of Clio’s Psyche will include: Putin, Ukraine, and Zelenskyy; Russian national identity; the emotions of facing death, dying, and life in the era of COVID; the Stein Festschrift; Flaubert’s parrot; Heidegger’s turn; a meeting report; various poems; and several book reviews. The Howard Stein Clio Festschrift covers the career of Dr. Stein, who is emeritus professor at the University of Oklahoma, has published 33 books, and started attending psychohistory conferences in the 1970s.
Psychobiography Research and Publication Group of the Forum
This is a new group established by the Psychohistory Forum. There is much information about this new initiative on the Clio’s Psyche website. On the home page is a link to further information about the Psychohistory Group.