CfP: Which Way Forward for Psychoanalysis? (Chicago, May 2013)

Call For Papers

Which Way Forward for Psychoanalysis?

First Annual Conference of the Society for Psychoanalytic Inquiry (SPI)

The Society for Psychoanalytic Inquiry (SPI) is hosting its first annual conference at the University of Chicago, on May 17-19, 2013. The event is cosponsored by: Psychoannals & the University of Chicago Department of English and Department of Romance Languages


Psychoanalysis was once a radically new scientific and cultural movement. Although today the public largely understands it as an antiquated therapeutic technique, Sigmund Freud believed that his “depth psychology” had the potential to help free both the individual and society from inhibitions and illusions. This once-revolutionary tradition is now fragmented and stagnant: torn apart by internal struggles, psychoanalysis preserves itself through insularity; meanwhile, our society’s unabated hostility to depth psychology’s most fundamental claims gradually presses it into conformity. Consequently, psychoanalytic therapy has become increasingly divorced from the broader project of depth psychology as a united scientific and cultural movement. But when a critical perspective on society was abandoned, did this limit our ability to understand the inner life of the individual? Or has it allowed psychoanalysis to progress within academic departments and the medical and psychological professions? Which way forward for psychoanalysis?


This year’s keynote is Leo Bersani, who is an American literary theorist and Professor Emeritus of French at the University of California, Berkeley. His most recent books include Intimacies (with Adam Phillips) and Is the Rectum a Grave? and Other Essays.


SPI invites scholars, clinicians, and independent researchers to participate in a conference, organized around the following topics:

What Kind of Science is Psychoanalysis (hard, soft, or pseudo)?

Is psychoanalysis a form of modern science, or is it better thought of as a critique of modern science?

On what grounds do psychoanalysts practice their therapy: e.g. “soft science,” as an art of the healing profession, or as a more legitimized version of its predecessor, mesmerism?

Of what use or validity is theory when it develops independently from practical therapeutic concerns?

What is at stake in the debate over whether or not psychoanalysis is a science?

Sexuality and the Body Politic

What accounts for the persistence of modern sexual taboos, even after the sexual enlightenment and liberation movements over the 20th century?

What is at stake in whether sexual orientation is a biological predisposition, or a social construction? Does Freud’s theory of instincts have any relevance to this question? ~
Is classical psychoanalysis at odds with feminism and queer theory?

How can reinvigorated psychoanalytic inquiry help understand, let alone face, the realities of sexual oppression today?

Sisyphean Tasks: Psychoanalysis and the Reform of Social Institutions

What are the reasons behind the mental health profession’s increasing emphasis on practical steps and chemical intervention over the sometimes-slow task of self-examination? What respective roles do scientific advances in the understanding of brain chemistry, a shockingly inadequate health care infrastructure, and conformist tendencies play in this trend? Is psychoanalysis a real alternative when the high expense and significant time commitment of psychoanalysis prevents many, often those who might benefit most, from seeking treatment?

What is the current state of education in the United States? How does the structure of schooling affect the personality structures of our moment? Can psychoanalytic perspectives help inform — or even lead — a badly needed movement for educational reform?

What are the persistent sources and manifestations of social prejudice? How do we understand these in a society where great cultural advances over manifest cruelties have been made and ought not be discounted?

Where is the American family going and how will it affect personal and political development and freedom?

Why are some drugs illegal? And others a new obsession?

The Future of Psychoanalysis

What can psychoanalysis hope to accomplish in 10, 25, 50 years? On what basis, and with what prospects, could there be a unified psychoanalytic movement?

How have the possibilities for psychoanalysis changed from Freud’s time to our own, and who (or what) is responsible for this change?

What role could new psychoanalytic institutions play in achieving greater clarity on the aims and methods of the rising generations of analysts?

Psychoanalysis, Ethics and Politics

What can psychoanalytic theory tell us about the potential for and limits to radical social transformation?

Why hasn’t the political enfranchisement of the working class led to socialism? Is psychoanalysis relevant to answering this question, or merely a distraction?

Does psychoanalysis prescribe a right way to live, and if so, what serves as its ground?

How can therapy serve an emancipatory function when it aims to help patients adapt to a reality that, by its very nature, may undermine the development of the autonomous individual envisioned by depth psychology?


Please send 250-word abstracts and 75-word bio to SPI at by January 31, 2013 to be considered for participation. Visit us at to learn more.

3 thoughts on “CfP: Which Way Forward for Psychoanalysis? (Chicago, May 2013)

  1. Antoneli says:

    Thank you for posting this. Having steudid counseling psychology in school, I can testify that there is certainly a political element in psychology. The program was quite cognitively behaviorally based. Gestalt psychotherapy was mentioned just a bit. I had to seek out some of my own information.In community practice, where something like 80% of treatments have to be evidenced based and officially approved as such in order for public dollars to fund them, I’ve definitely come to realize how existential psychology and/or gestalt psychology principles can be utilized through a cognitive behavioral perspective. For example, it is our thoughts about our existential meaning and/or unfinished business that can discussed in the context of officially approved evidence based practices that the government sanctions, like cognitive therapy when appropriate and relevant.

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