Research Project

The Psychic Effects of Political Oppression

Principal Investigator
Dr Christopher Chamberlin
A black psychoanalyst considering the effects of psychic oppression in clinical practice.

Do racial and gender violence require interventions beyond the medical framework?

This project examines a transnational tradition of black psychoanalysts who retheorized the human subject through their clinical experience treating the psychic effects of political oppression.

At its core, this research project examines the work of the French-Martinican psychiatrist and philosopher Frantz Fanon (1925-1961), African American psychoanalysts and activists William Grier (1926-2015) and Price Cobbs (1928-2015), and Haitian Canadian analyst and anthropologist Willy Apollon (1937- ). Unlike their Freudian and post-Freudian contemporaries, these analysts of the ‘antiracist clinic’ practiced in institutional settings – hospitals and community clinics – and advanced new metapsychologies by reconceptualizing the link between ‘madness’ (or psychosis) and the repression of blackness and femininity.

Accounting for Fanon’s, Grier’s & Cobbs’, and Apollon’s combined work not only fills crucial gaps in the history of psychiatry but advances contemporary critical and psychosocial theory: their analysis of ‘psychosomatic’ symptoms and ‘untreatable’ psychic structures displaces the foundations of Freudian social criticism, based as they are on the ‘normal’ neurotic’s conflicts with the cultural milieu.

This research project argues that the antiracist clinic reinvents psychoanalysis — as both a theory and practice — by rethinking the social and historical determinants of psychic suffering and by demonstrating how the structural nature of racial and gender violence requires interventions into subjectivity that go beyond the medical framework of ‘health’, ‘normality’, and the ‘individual’.

The logo for the Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies, a Rorschach inkblot test.
Contact us
Dr Christopher Chamberlin Principal Investigator
University of Essex
Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies University of Essex
Wivenhoe Park, Colchester, CO4 3SQ
Telephone: 01206 873640