The Psychic and The Social Founding Violence of Law (Intensive Seminar with Ghalya Saadawi)

4 Feb, 24

Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian
Sala 2, Zona de Congressos
Av. de Berna, 45 A
1067-001 Lisbon 14–15.02.2024
11h–13h,14h–17h Partnership: CAM – Centro de Arte Moderna Gulbenkian, IFILNOVA (CineLab) / FCSH / UNL, Maumaus / Lumiar Cité

What if society has dialectally shaped our desire but also our drives? What if these are already socially constituted, coded in civilization? What if Law (in economy, in politics) is the law of governing the interests, the passions, the drives? We unfurl these lines of thought alongside a critique of the once contention that liberating the drives was sufficient for liberation itself, misunderstanding the drives’ doubleness as both instinct and congealed forms of the social. We explore the contradictions of the split in law, in the founding violence of law that creates a transgressive underside in the demand for law, crossed with the question of critique and emancipation. We look at a critique of ego psychology and its revisionist reading of Freud (and of Freudo-Marxism). The so-called misreading of unconscious repression, instinct, nature in relation to capitalist social relations misplaces the problem of unconscious drives (Adorno: congealed second-nature) and reads them as capable of being allegedly freed. The misunderstanding around the nature of the drives as originary, instinctual, individual, or in need of liberation, betrays the already social aspect of the drives’ internalisationand of the unconscious qua unconscious. So critical theory’s appraisal and critique of psychoanalysis via Adorno and Marcuse helps us understand the pleasure principle and the reality principle on the level of the social and political. We alternate between the social and the psychic, meaning also between the moral, the political, and the psychoanalytic. Thus, the seminar draws out relations between founding repression (Freud, Marcuse etc.) and the founding violence of Law (Žižek, Lacan, Dean etc.); the founding violence of Lawcovered over as the law. We trace lines between the inception through repression of social law and, as it were, the law of/in psychoanalysis. We do so specifically through introducing certain Lacanian psychoanalytic propositions that help us understand the ethics of desire between the Symbolic and the Real, as superego’s injunctions to obey and to enjoy. We try to understand the contradictions of the need for law, the violence of the founding of law, and thus law’s transgression. Critical theory, Dean’s reading of Zizek on Law’s split aspect, and Zizek’s reading of psychoanalysis, help us navigate the terrain of obedience, transgression and enjoyment of law, and clarify the (negative) social implications therein (e.g. social contracts, liberal legalism, the ethics of human rights, fascism and repressive desublimation, and so on).

Ghalya Saadawi is a writer and a senior lecturer at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her teaching and research interests span critical theory, critical approaches to human rights, witnessing and testimony, law and psychoanalysis, aesthetics and politics, Lebanese art and documentary, among other areas. Between 2015 and 2017 she was Resident Professor of the Ashkal Alwan Home Workspace Program (Beirut), and has been theory tutor at the Dutch Art Institu- te since 2018. Saadawi is also a member of Beirut Institute for Critical Analysis and Research (BICAR). Some of her writing has appeared in magazines and journals such as Bidoun, frieze, Bidayat, the derivative, Third Text, ArtMargins, Journal of Visual Culture, PhiloSOPHIA, among other publications. Her forthcoming book Between October and November (Fitzcarraldo Editions, 2025) is an essay on loss and the persistence of forms under an extended capitalist modernity.

Registration is free but limited to the number of seats available. Please send an email with a short CV to info@problematisingreality.com by 08.02.2024. Confirmation of registration will be sent by email.
The seminar will be in English.