Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘psychoanalysis’

Cover of The Maximum Security Yoga Club by Mikita BrottmanThe Maximum Security Yoga Club, Mikita Brottman (TransVisceral Books 2017)

(This is a guest review by Dr Rachel Edelstein)

June 2015. Anglo-American academic Mikita Brottman sets off in her eco-friendly Honda Hopi to the Jessup Correctional Facility on the outskirts of Baltimore. It will be her first day running a yoga club for prisoners at the notorious maximum-security jail — and her hopes are high. For the next eight months those hopes seem to be fully realized. That first session goes very well and those succeeding it go even better. Dozens of new prisoners are soon clamoring to join the club.

Then Mikita introduces her by now tight-knit group of eager students to a new asana – a posture she has invented herself with just them in mind…

The following day her yoga club is abruptly canceled by the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (MDPSCS). Mikita reaches out in an increasingly bewildered and desperate attempt to uncover why the authorities have taken this harsh and completely unexpected step, cutting her off from all contact with prisoners with whom she has bonded deeply and whose personalities and psychology she has been observing with an incisive but compassionate eye. As she writes in chapter four:

The MDPSCS at first refused to return my calls or answer any of my letters and emails, but I finally managed to get an “unofficial” response from one of the prison-guards with whom I had worked, and with whom – so I thought – I had forged a mutually respectful and considerate professional relationship. I had to read his email several times before its meaning fully sank in, so disconnected, incoherent and (frankly) illogical did it seem to my disbelieving gaze. I quote here an extract: “Your so-called club has killed two prisoners and left three others paralyzed for life. You can count yourself lucky that the Department is not suing your pasty-white posterior to Alaska and back. And you have the effrontery to ask why the club has been canceled? Please, Dr Brottman: give me a break!”

I was deeply disturbed by the tone and dismissiveness of this communication. Yes, there was a grain of truth in its assertions: the new asana had not gone as well as I might have liked. And yes, five members of the club did break their necks, of whom two died on the spot and three were, in the email’s cold and clinical phraseology, “left paralyzed for life.” But was this any reason to cancel a club that had been fatality-free on no fewer than forty-six previous occasions? To my mind, it was not. I continued to probe for the true reason behind the MDPSCS’s abrupt and shocking decision. (chapter 4, “Orwell’s Shadow”, pg. 124)

Her efforts are unavailing – but worse is to come for the mild-mannered literary scholar and yoga-enthusiast. As the US presidential campaign begins and the appalling rhetoric of Donald Trump incites the most reprehensible elements of so-called white America, Mikita finds herself adopted as an “alt-right icon” by vile racists who believe that the unfortunate events at that final session of her yoga-club were no accident. She quotes a typical email: “Way to go, girl! You should get a Congressional Medal for smuggling yourself into the jail and tricking all them dumb n*****s into trusting you like that! 88!”

Needless to say, these unjust, unfair and totally unfounded insinuations are an additional and almost unbearable burden for Mikita to carry. And be in no doubt: The Maximum Security Yoga Club is certainly a tale of trauma and tragedy. But it is ultimately one also of hope, as Mikita finds a chink of light amid the darkness by adopting a false name and starting a Tantric aromatherapy-and-origami club at a maximum-security psychiatric facility (which she leaves unnamed for obvious reasons).

Combining cutting-edge psychoanalysis with deeply personal memoir, The Maximum Security Yoga Club will take you on a roller-coaster ride of extreme emotion and edgy insight as it interrogates a seething underbelly of obstreperous obstructionism right at the heart of Maryland officialdom.

 


STOP-PRESS A TransVisceral Books press-release brings the unhappy news that the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services has followed tiny clues in The Maximum Security Yoga Club and unmasked the false identity Mikita used to gain access to the Hyman T. Rubinstein Ultra-Max Mental Hospital. Her Tantric aromatherapy-and-origami club there has been canceled and she is now threatened with prosecution for impersonation, fraud and misuse of federal facilities. Please see the TransVisceral website for further details of this devastating new development.

Read Full Post »

YaC Attack

The Great Grisby by Mikita BrottmanThe Great Grisby: Two Thousand Years of Exceptional Dogs, Mikita Brottman (William Collins 2014)

Unlike her fellow Oxonian Miriam Stimbers, Mikita Brottman has never seemed a plausible figure to me. Is she for real? Or is she in fact an under-cover performance artist parodying a neurotic Guardian-reading psychoanalyst with a PhD in the humanities? Will she unmask herself one day in dramatic circumstances at a conference engaging issues around post-Foucauldian hermeneutics? I’ve always had my suspicions.

Those suspicions were only deepened by The Great Grisby. This book is so Guardianista I half expected it to come with a free beard-trimmer and packet of fair-trade organic tampons. There’s no foreword by Polly Toynbee or afterword by Jonathan Freedland, but believe me: there should have been. The hum of the hive-mind was particularly loud in passages like this:

When you think about it, the idea of gangsters emerging from the ghetto to steal “our” innocent pets is really absurd; what’s more, it bespeaks all kinds of race and class anxieties. These sensitive issues also saturate the discourse around pit bull “rescue” campaigns, in which dogs are taken from young black men in the city’s run-down neighborhoods, inoculated, bathed, “altered”, given friendly names, adopted by middle-class families, and taken to live in the suburbs. We do to the dogs what we want to do to the barbarians who breed them: make them submit. (ch. 2, “Bull’s-eye”, pg. 20)

You can picture Guardianistas and NYT-wits nodding their heads wisely at that passage, then tutting sadly for the thousandth time over white racism. When will it end? When will the rainbow society begin and the Black Community be released from Its millennial bondage? But, as a keyly (and corely) committed anti-racist, I call bullshit. Ms B is pretending concern for Yoot-a-Color (YaC) while actually erecting toxic barriers to their participation in her own sunny world of white privilege.

Why do I say this? Simple. Look at the passage again. Note the verb “bespeaks” and the phrase “saturate the discourse around”. Guardianistas don’t notice the irony of expressing concern about Da Ghetto while using pretentious academic jargon so white it glows in the dark. Ms B’s own language is expressing a clear attitude towards YaC: she, from her lofty perch of white privilege, understands what causes their misery and deplores the hegemonic racism that systematically oppresses them.

Meanwhile, her actions speak louder than her words: she continues to benefit from that white hegemony and the unearned privilege it bestows 24/7/52 on jargon-juicing Guardianistas such as herself. This book is in fact an unabashed celebration of both the hegemony and the privilege. It interrogates issues around a series of white dog-owners and their dogs, with a nigh-on-nauseating emphasis on Dead White European Males like Charles Dickens, Sigmund Freud and Schopenhauer.

Got that? Then brace yourself – here’s a particularly appalling bit from chapter 7:

Blitz – as he’s usually called – now travels extensively with Lemmy and the boys. As you’ll readily imagine, it can get LOUD even backstage at a Motörhead gig and after some failed experiments with adapted ear-plugs and ear-muffs, Lemmy commissioned a special “acoustically opaque” sleeping-box for Blitz, in which, having been fed some doggie-chocs soaked with a herbal calmative, he’ll comfortably snooze out the earsplitting riffs of “Ace of Spades” and “Bomber” until the gig is over and he’s re-united with his besotted – and beloved – owner. With typical gruff honesty, Lemmy has declared that he prefers his dog to 99.9% of human beings: “There’s no bullshit with the bugger and I’m sure he’d lay down his fucking life for me, just as I’d lay down mine for him.” (ch. 7, “Blitzkrieg”, pg. 60)

Jesus. Could you get any whiter than heavy metal, herbal calmatives and truffle-hounds called Blitzkrieg? The closest Ms B gets to a Person of Color is Frida Kahlo. Which isn’t close enough, in my opinion. Interspersed with discussion of these hideously white dog-owners are Ms B’s musings on her own dog (now deceased). It was a French bulldog called Grisby, whose name came – in achingly arch Guardianista fashion – from a French film. But it gets worse. Grisby was a white French bulldog – just look at the cover. And the white dog/god is on a pedestal, forsooth! Could Ms B’s Eurocentric white-supremacist agenda be any clearer?

No. But think what this book could have been about. Rather than portraying a pampered pooch and writing about her fellow white privilegees, Ms B could have adopted an autistic Somali orphan with a missing limb and alopecia, recorded the child’s inspirational upbringing, and launched a real challenge to white supremacy and white privilege. Just think what a book that would have made. Instead, she chose to reinforce the white hegemonic power-structure while making vacuous rhetorical gestures towards solidarity with the ghetto.

Bad Brotty!


Previously pre-posted on Papyrocentric Performativity:

Hill Kill KultMurderous Mersey: The Seriously Sinister Story of Stockport’s Slo-Mo Slayer, Dariusz Mecoghescu (Visceral Visions 2014)

Read Full Post »

botty by miriam stimbersBotty: An Unnatural History of the Backside, Dr Miriam B. Stimbers (TransVisceral Books 2014)

With a Miriam Stimbers book you can expect only one thing: the unexpected. From knock-knock jokes to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, from allegorical albinism in the music of Hawkwind to fundamentalist phantasmality in the music of the Wombles: Stimbers has an unparalleled ability to dissect the deviant demons of mutant modernity by unleashing a scholarly spotlight of high-octane hermeneutics on the feral formulae of societal psychosis that lurk unsuspected amid the mephitic maelstrom of contemporary culture. And then some…

But might Botty be her best book yet? Quite possibly. The backside is (or can be) a big subject, but Stimbers doesn’t flinch, seamlessly synthesizing the most disparate elements of pygocentric and proctotropic performativity, from bottom-worshipping sculptors in the ancient world to twerking pop-stars in the 21st century. But for me the stand-out – or should that be stand-up? – section has to be the chapter in which Stimbers rolls up her psychoanalytic sleeves and gets to grips with the toxic taboo of the haemorrhoid. Is it merely a coincidence, she asks, that the journalist Emma Freud, great-granddaughter of the immortal Sigmund, should have supplied a rhyming slang for the condition? (i.e., emmas ← Emma Freuds ← haemorrhoids)

Stimbers suggests not, because haemorrhoids occupy a central, albeit (to the general public) little-known, position in the history and culture of psychoanalysis. Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) first suffered from them at the age of 46, writing to his long-term correspondent and confidant Jakob Froschnichts:

My God, Jakob, I could swear that they are the size of grapefruit! [Pampelmusen] I cannot sit for a moment and have to work standing at my desk, which I have raised by propping the legs on the largest volumes in my library. Furthermore, I must sleep on my stomach, strapped to the bed for fear that I should turn over in the night and be woken by a sudden shaft of proctalgia [Arschlochschmerz]. It is a most wearisome business, but nevertheless an educative one, offering the sufferer insights into the human condition that might pass them by who have never endured this atrocious affliction. (Botty, ch. 8, “Of Heresy and Haemorrhoids”, pg. 215, quoting The Collected Letters of Sigmund Freud, Vol. XVIII, ed. Dr Nathan T. Goldberg, Harvard University Press 1983)

But despite his own direct experience, Freud was never able to place haemorrhoids definitively within the schemata of psychoanalytic aetiology. Were they, as he first suspected, a tell-tale symptom of anal retentivity? Or, in fact, of its exact opposite? Or did it vary from patient to patient, from backside to backside? He never made up his mind.

Still afflicted: Freud in 1938

Still afflicted: Freud in 1938

Nor could he have guessed how haemorrhoids would spark a furious controversy in psychoanalytic circles following his death. In the 1950s, some senior disciples began to insist that it was an “insult to the Master” to acquire them substantially before the age of 46, while others insisted, on the contrary, that it was an insult to acquire them an appreciable time after.

Most were agreed that acquisition actually in the year of one’s 46th birthday was best, but what of those who never acquired them at all? Stimbers describes rumours that some unafflicted psychoanalysts were faking the symptoms in order to ingratiate themselves with whichever tendency happened to hold sway in their own city or nation. There is even talk of prosthetic haemorrhoids being secretly manufactured and deployed in such psychoanalytic centres as New York and London. Stimbers keeps a cool head amid the controversy, declines to reveal her own partisan preferences, and guides the reader through the twists and turns of the great Freudian haemorrhoid debate right to the present day.

But if that’s the best bit of Botty, you’ll by no means be disappointed by the rest. As ever, there’s some serious Stimbulation within these pages and, unlike Freud and his fellow sufferers, you’ll be left in the best possible position: glued to your seat and wanting much more. By casting a botlight into the most uncompromising crevices of proctocentric possibility, Stimbers has thrown down an incendiary gauntlet not merely to other cultural commentators but also to her own future self. Will she ever top Botty? We’ll just have to wait and see…


Elsewhere other-posted:

Pestilent, Pustulent and Pox-Pockedmore meticulous Miriamic monitoring of the mephitic maelstrom

Read Full Post »

Lesbian and Gay Studies: A Critical Introduction, Andy Medhurst and Sally R. Munt (1997)

Is there anyone so spiritually dead as to fail to be overcome by a sense of almost transcendent, macro-cosmic awe when standing in the “Studies” section of a university library surrounded by hundreds of metres of shelving filled with books expensively produced from trees whose usefulness would have been infinitely greater and dignity far less insulted had they been turned into lavatory paper? I hope not. This is one of the books you might pull off those hundreds of metres of shelving. It should of course have been called Queer Studies: A Post-Critical Introduction, but the editors say in their introduction that they have difficulties around issues vis à vis this particularized discourse, or some such rubbish.

And by talking rubbish the introduction sets the stage perfectly for what is to come: pages and pages and pages of self-obsessed, semi-literate jargon and duckspeak, trivial where it isn’t meaningless and meaningless where it isn’t trivial:

Extract 1: The hybrid formations imagined by Deleuze and Guattari – not just the pre-oedipal mouth to the breast, but the pollen-seeking bee to the orchid – mean that sexual orientation has no script. There is, in a philosophy influenced by Deleuze and Guattari, no “homosexual” as such. But there is “homosexual production”, which, as Guy Hocquenghem writes, “takes place according to a mode of non-liminative horizontal relations” (Hocquenghem, 1978, pg. 95). Reading male homosexuality “against Oedipus”, as Deleuze and Guattari have taught him to do, the maverick French psychoanalyst Hocquenghem explains that the very idea of homosexual desire is meaningless: “Properly speaking, desire is no more homosexual than heterosexual. Desire exists in a multiple form, whose components are only divisible a posteriori [sic], according to how we manipulate it. Just like heterosexual desire, homosexual desire is an arbitrarily frozen frame in an unbroken and polyvocal flux.” (Hocquenghem, 1978, pg. 36)

Extract 2: In terms of the theoretical formations presently constructed against normative notions of a trans/gendered dichotomy of desire, we find Mangemerde writing (Mangemerde 1992, pg. 392) of a reconceptualized “centre” of selfhood, springing from a rhizomatic program of self re/definition. The obvious asymmetries of the “hydraulic” aspects of this proposal were challenged by Ledrosse and Pedobouche (Ledrosse and Pedobouche, 1974, pp. 456-8), who proposed that foundational aspects of queer identity be grounded instead in a centrifugal meta/narrative defined in terms of its oppositional reality…

But no, I’ve just got bored with making up that second extract. Like books – sorry, “texts” – in the rest of the studies, Gay and Lesbian Studies: A Critical Introduction is written in the stalest and most bourgeois of stale bourgeois dialects: Franco-American academese. Its only conceivable purpose is to justify the existence of Franco-American academics to other Franco-American academics and it has to be admitted that it serves that purpose well: there are many thousands of them all over the world now producing more and more of this. In fact there are computer programs able to produce it to order, but that, like all the other attempts to mock or undermine it, has merely demonstrated again its hydra-like vitality. The Emperors – and Empresses – have no clothes but snug inside their seminar rooms and queer-identity workshops they never notice.

Read Full Post »