States of Security: Childhood and the Cold War Politics of Attachment Theory

An open seminar from the Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies

  • Wed 13 Mar 19

    17:00 - 18:30

  • Colchester Campus

    Room 4N.6.1

  • Event speaker

    Dr Carolyn Laubender, University of Essex

  • Event type

    Lectures, talks and seminars

  • Event organiser

    Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies, Department of

  • Contact details

    Debbie Stewart

At the same time as hyper-vigilant Cold War discourses promoting "national security" were on the rise in the Anglophone West, psychological and psychoanalytic narratives became increasingly concerned with safeguarding childhood through the emergent language of "maternal security."

In this talk, Carolyn Laubender reads the work of London-based psychologist and psychoanalyst John Bowlby, charting how his postwar "Attachment Theory" became one of the key scientific vocabularies in the promotion of childhood security logics. Situating Bowlby’s work within the economic and political climate of the Cold War UK, Laubender considers how Bowlby’s idealization of infantile emotional “security” expounded a parenting discourse that made gendered reproductive labor vital to the ideological project of securing Western capitalism and liberal democracy against, as Marx has famously written, that “spectre” of communism haunting Europe.

As Laubender shows, Bowlby's articulation of an instinctually attached child naturalized—and nationalized—the provision of “domestic” security by making the mother’s reproductive labor with the child in the domestic home coextensive with the production of national security writ large. Crucially, this talk thus explores what is at stake, politically, when the psychological wellbeing of the child today is narrated through the persisting grammar of the securitized, neoliberal nation-state.

The Speaker

Carolyn Laubender, PhD, is a lecturer in the Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies and director of the BA in Childhood Studies at the University of Essex. Her writing has appeared in Psychoanalysis and History, Studies in Gender and Sexuality, Free Associations, and Feminist Theory. Her current monograph project, The Child in Mind: Psychoanalysis, Politics, and the Clinic, theorizes how the child psychoanalytic clinic became a site of experimental political action throughout Europe in the 20th century. 

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