Freud’s interest in antiquity and his self-described obsessive collecting of ancient artifacts is well documented. His library, as well as his own texts, are replete with references to excavation, buried cities, and to the works of archaeologists and philologists. The dialogue between analysis and excavation that prevails throughout Freud’s thought has since generated a history of work engaging archaeology as allegory. This conference explores the conceptual inseparability of archeology and psychoanalysis, invoking Freud’s claim that the excavation of repressed memories and of historical artifacts is “in fact identical.”
Freud’s Archaeology thus takes as its starting point archaeology’s double function of allegory and practice within psychoanalysis and the fact that archeology and psychoanalysis as disciplines oscillate between theoretical and practical work. This makes a clear distinction between these two “identical” disciplines within psychoanalysis impossible. The conference dwells on these convergences—of archaeology and analysis, allegory and practice—by asking what can be generated by taking seriously Freud’ claim of equivalence between archaeology and analysis, between his work as an analyst and as a collector of antiquity.
Freud emphasizes that the work of excavation-analysis does not simply retrieve the past, but produces it through “the work of spades.” How are we to understand an idea of excavation that takes the past not as something waiting to be unearthed, but as something produced through the very activity of its uncovering? What, in Freud’s understanding, happens to the excavating subject and excavated object when the past is uncovered?
A fundamental aspect of addressing the conflation between cultural-historical and personal memory is to consider the racial and sexual dimensions of both psychoanalysis and archeology as disciplines. Both disciplines have been structured though racist analogies drawn between prehistoric man and the “savage” or non-European subject, and Freud variously likens archaeology to sublimated libidinal activity, the site of repressed sexuality, and the work through which the patient can be cured of “pathological” sexuality.
By bringing together scholars from the fields of Classics, Literary Studies, Archaeology, Philosophy, and Psychoanalysis, this conference activates Freud’s claim of identity between psychoanalysis and archeology by putting into practice conversation between practitioners and theorists of these two fields.
Possible Paper themes include:
- Freud’s texts: Delusion and Dream in Jensen’s Gradiva, Constructions in Analysis, Totem and Taboo, etc.
- Freud’s archaeological library, collection, and travels.
- Conversations with archaeology and classics; was Freud’s writings on archaeology reflected within the field? Readings of his work within a broader frame of early twentieth-century studies on the methods and uses of history.
- The afterlife of Freud’s concept of archaeology within literary and critical theory.
- The sexual and gendered dimensions of historical construction in psychoanalysis.
- The modern relation to the ancient past between construction and retrieval.
- Dream-work in relation to the practice of the excavation.
- Shared linguistic terminology between psychoanalysis and archeology.
- Archaeologist as ambivalent position between analyst and analysand; excavation as analysis and repression.
- Repression and the creation of archaeological objects.
- Ruin and Pathology.
The conference will welcome contributions of varied lengths between 10-40 min. We hope that this format will encourage focused readings of shorter passages as well as longer reflections on the implications and contexts of Freud’s writing and collecting.
Proposals should be a page-length, indicating theme, argument, duration of talk. In addition please include a brief biographical paragraph.
Proposals are accepted until March. 25th at.