Lacanian Review Online: Reducing the Other to the Same

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When they poured across the border
I was cautioned to surrender
This I could not do

(Leonard Cohen, The Partisan)
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LRO 211
22nd February 2020

 

Racism and Supervision
Anaëlle Lebovits-Quenehen
 

I propose to consider that among what is taught in supervision, “being not racist”, is of importance. Especially since racism is perhaps the most widely shared thing in the world. “We would be wrong”, Lacan tells us in 1972, “not to notice what we see around us, that there is not a single human utterance that is not deeply rooted in racism” [1]. Lacan said that when he just spoke about the AMS before the proposition on the pass. […]

Because Lacan’s idea is that there was a time when the AMS reproduced themselves more than they participated in producing analysts. Their mode of recruitment then consisted essentially in having been “old enough under the harness, to [be] consented by [their] colleagues, received as AMS”. The racism at stake consisted in reducing the alterity of the Other to bring it back to the same, by domestication. […]. By reading these few lines, we understand that Lacan invented and held to an alternative to this mode of recruitment, not only because to become AMS without risking oneself, one achieves it lifeless or almost, but also, and above all, because it is not clear what one could expect from a domesticated AMS other than that it indefinitely reproduces the domestication from which it originates. Lacan notes moreover like in passing: “no one knows how long it takes to domesticate the dog, the cat … It’s very amusing to think of the descendance of these very specifically domestic animals”. The equivocation by which Lacan makes us hear that domestication is dhommestication is known [2]. It points out, among other things, that the human humanises or perhaps inhumanises the animal. But there, it’s humans who dhommesticate others.

After making this somber observation on racism, Lacan adds: “If there is somewhere a small chance, it is at the level of analytic history, it is the only one that has come to take off something like ‘autonomising’”. This sheds new light, for me anyway, on the famous passage from Seminar XXIII where Lacan evokes the rhinoceros-supervisee: “It happens”, he says, “that I pay myself the luxury of supervising […] a certain number of people who have authorised themselves to be analysts […]. There are two stages. There is the one where they are like the rhinoceros. They do pretty much anything, and I always approve of them. They are indeed always right”. [3]. […]

Approval obviously does not exclude that we explore such or such point, that we may be surprised by such other, that we evoke a diagnosis left unfinished or that we deviate from it on the contrary not to be rivetted there, or even that one gives an indication, an advice, etc., but it seems to me that when Lacan approves the rhinoceros, it is also in act, that he departs from racism and the domestication that serves it [4]. This approval seems to me to be the way Lacan takes to teach the rhinoceros not to be racist in his practice, that he, in act too, supports the singularity with which he is dealing with his analysands. There are indeed a thousand ways of being racist when one claims to take the analyst’s function, a thousand ways which are as many ways of defending oneself from the singularity of the analysand as well as from the real itself: for example wanting one’s good – to the image of ours, as always when we want the good of another, whoever they may be; for example understanding them, as if we were speaking the same language; or thinking we can do all for them, or also that their normalisation in the course of analysis would be a progress, forgetting in the same movement that we never invent anything other than from our own grain.

Whatever path it takes, racism tends to ease the tension from the One to the Other, in defiance of difference. And here we are on what I would call “the Aristophanes slope” of racism, that which tends to exclude the Other by reducing it to the same. And I propose to consider that we also come to supervise this, one’s more or less ineradicable racism.

 


This text is an extract from the intervention of Anaëlle Lebovits-Quenehen in “Question of School” Study-Day, on 1 February 2020. Published in L’Hebdo-Blog 191. https://www.hebdo-blog.fr/le-racisme-et-le-controle/

Translated by Bogdan Wolf – Revised by Nicolas Duchenne

Image @Studio Q Gallery

 
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