Research Group

Psychoanalysis, Law and Social Phenomena

A painting of a bowl of cherries, representing law and psychoanalysis.

Creating dialogues between psychoanalytic thought and legal enquiry

Psychoanalysis and law both study the character and meaning of human behaviour.  Both address individual and social phenomena and seek to mediate conflicts arising within human and organisational relationships.

Both concern themselves with the protection and infringement of human dignity and rights, the recovery of memory, and the experience of trauma and processes for recovery and reparations, showing a deep respect for human suffering.

Our research seeks to identify how psychoanalytic theory and practice might be used to critique existing law and legal theories, and how to support legal reform and development. Our work considers how legal understandings and processes may yield new insights into psychoanalytic and psychosocial thinking.

In particular, we aim to highlight contemporary issues on which there is scope for a continuing dialogue between law and psychoanalysis.

Image credit to: Dr Richard Cornes: Bowl of Cherries – Tutorial 7: Human Rights (2021)

Our research

Our research group embraces a wide range of interests.  They include the historical development of interactions between law and psychoanalysis in different jurisdictions, the evolution of parallel traditions and thinking, and the arc of common ideation.

We are interested in methodological perspectives applicable in both fields, in respective notions of containment, in the function of memory in both the courts and the consulting room, and in the actors and emotions involved.

We believe a comparison of the processes of reflection applicable in each arena will demonstrate that psychoanalysis has a contribution to make to legal thinking, and that legal values and philosophies may enhance psychoanalytic and psychosocial frameworks.


Our members

 Members of our group bring legal and psychoanalytic experience to bear on the understanding of legal and psychoanalytic processes, with consideration of both the conscious and unconscious dynamics involved. 

Our group includes members of the Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies (PPS) and of Essex Law School (ELS), as well as individuals from outside of the University of Essex.  Please view the profiles of the members below to discover their areas of experience and research. 

We welcome expressions of interest and encourage and support applications for PhD research projects related to the research interests of this group and its members.  If you wish to make an enquiry, please email Ann Addison, Chris Tanner, Richard Cornes or Lars Waldorf, joint organisers of this research group.

The logo for the Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies, a Rorschach inkblot test.
Contact us
PPS Research Group Organisers Dr Ann Addison
Chris Tanner
ELS Research Group Organisers Professor Lars Waldorf
Dr Richard Cornes