Research Theme

Image, Fantasy and Memory

A painting of people floating in a surreal interior space.

Introducing the annual research theme of our Department

In 2019 and 2020, the Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies will converge on the research theme of Image, Fantasy and Memory.

Our annual theme serves to shape the focus and bring together the collective research of the Department. The image we have chosen to represent our theme was created by the artist Rosemary Carson. Rosemary's work frequently tackles topics such as suppressed memories and turbulent inner life experiences, she has very kindly given her permission to the Department to share this painting for illustrative purposes. To read more about Rosemary Carson's life and work, please visit the Henry Boxer Gallery website.

Image, fantasy and memory evoke the contours of an ‘inner life’ so central to the psychoanalytic understanding of the self; and yet they are also eminently psychosocial. Each has had a rich and varied association with methods and analyses of social existence beyond the clinic. Together they contest, displace and extend assumptions about ‘rational consciousness’ which for so long dominated Western elaborations of selfhood and social praxis. They shift the focus onto more emotive engagements with reality, while providing significant tools in refashioning the narratives of those historically marginalised within Western societies. They conjure up utopian and critical dimensions of the relationships between individuals and the social world – expressing connections to ideas and experiences which are no longer or not quite there – and since the 1970s have played a central role in feminist, queer and postcolonial accounts of history, politics and identity.

Staff across the Department are investigating the broader functions of image, fantasy and memory, and their interconnection. Drawing on a combination of therapeutic, psychological, social and political discourses, we examine the ways in which these crucial modalities of human experience link a diverse set of contexts emerging from our specific areas of research. These include the geopolitical contours of the image, memory wounds of collectives and societies, clinical space and organisational cultures, refugee oral histories, the experience of temporality, psychological and neuroscientific accounts of memory and fantasy, children’s storytelling and the collision of fictional children with memories of childhood, consolidations of race and nation, collective creativity and aesthetic work, symbolisation in myth and dream, and the formation of individual identities.

The thinkers we are in dialogue with in our work are Judith Butler, Norbert Elias, Cornelius Castoriadis, Walter Benjamin, Marion Milner, Carl Jung, Sándor Ferenczi, Melanie Klein, Wilfed Bion, Michael Balint.

The logo for the Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies, a Rorschach inkblot test.
Contact us
Departmental Director of Research Dr Raluca Soreanu
University of Essex
Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies University of Essex
Wivenhoe Park, Colchester, Essex, CO4 3SQ
Telephone: 01206 873640