I am a descendant (if I put it in Freire's terms) of both oppressor and oppressed

Dear all,

I am very happy to see that some movement and conversation has grown around this theme. In the past few days, I have been slowly attempting to digest what has been said so that I can provide a proper response to it. By now I have now realized that this won’t be possible, that is, whatever I write will fall short, so I have decided to respond at this point so as to not not let more things pile up and then risk ignoring something important.

For the sake of clarity, I will somewhat artificially list certain responses I have.

1) When you say, Diego, that “it is a matter of fact that Americans bring a shadow of cultural dissociation”. I agree with what you say, but would add a few things to such a point: firstly, that each and every one of us, not only Americans, bring shadow into the discussion of Jungian theory and practice. Secondly, I do not believe that cultural dissociation is exclusive of Americans; in any case, what would be interesting is to study what are the specific styles of cultural dissociation that are present in different places and/or cultures, to have a more differentiated understanding of how this plays a role in our perception of the other. Finally, and this is for me the most important part, I would say that the psychological consequent of my previous two points is simply that what is psychologically relevant is that each of us struggle and work with our own shadow (be it personal or cultural) in order to understand shadow more as a means of relating to what is foreign to me (particularly to my ego or my persona) through those aspects of myself or of my culture that have been, for some reason, marginalized.

2) On this regard, and for the sake of historical rigor and cultural sensibility, I please ask that when we write in this group about the United States of America and its inhabitants, we do not refer to them as “America or Americans.” This is highly inaccurate and confusing, and symptomatic of our lack of differentiation when we speak of geographical, social, and cultural categories.It is difficult for me, for instance, to reply to you Diego when you speak about “Americans bringing shadow”, because I am not sure if you are refering to Americans as the members of a continent or as a members of a specific country (in this case the U.S.A). My replies would be very different in both cases because the history of the U.S.A is different from the history of my own country, Mexico, for instance.

3) I feel that it is necessary to make a clarification here. I am not defending a postmodern or deconstructionist position. Personally, I find both terms–modernity and postmodernity–equally problematic. They both point at something without really pointing at anything rigorously. The terms have been so overused and misused that carry with them very little meaning now. And if we speak from a philosophical perspective, and consider this to be a conflict between the fragmenting postmodernists and the traditional modernists, then the conflict remains within European thought. Derrida was not American (neither from the continent nor from the U.S.A), nor was Foucault or Lacan. (Although it might be important, if I am congruent with my own argument, to remember that Derrida was a very specific type of French: a man raised in Algeria, from Spanish ancestry (his family was from Toledo), who was kicked out of school when he was 12 because he was Jewish).

4) Let me be more specific about where my response came from, theoretically speaking. It came from anthropology. I am not an anthropologist, but I find the insights of anthropology very helpful for the inquiries in which contemporary Jungian and post-Jungian thought is engaged. The extremely rough ideas that I sketched in my previous email stem from very profound observations and analysis made by authors such as Marylin Strathern, Marshall Sahlins or Roy Wagner. I am interested in incorporating into our discussion the ideas of theories such as historical particularism, cross-cultural studies, culture theory, diffusionism, and the like. There is also evidently much of postcolonial theory in what I am expressing. This has often proved difficult because many people in the Jungian field are not even interested in such topics. It is very common (and this has happened to me in very diverse Jungian settings) that when facing arguments of these sort people do not even bother discussing them. These ideas are not even worth the time to fight them off, apparently. They are not psychology, is often the argument. These notions pertain to sociology, economics, politics, anthropology, and are out of our scope. This is, I believe, a very elusive argument, for the fact that we are not sociologists or economists or politicians or anthropologists does not mean that we are not capable of engaging with these ideas. In fact, I would say the opposite, we are ethically obligated to do so, at least to listen.

5) Finally, I simply want to add a personal note as to why I affiliate with this style of thinking. As I attempted to express in the previous email, I believe that most of the people I encounter today in my everyday life are a product of a very complex and intricate mixture of historical, sociological, economic, ethnic, and religious entanglements. As I said, I am a descendant (if I put it in Freire’s terms) of both oppressor and oppressed. My point is precisely that it is not possible at this point to distinguish between victims and perpetrators. Most of our nations and cultures have undergone so many empires, so many wars, and so much destruction, that it is likely that we descend both from those who killed and from those who were killed. This is part of our collective shadow and part of much suffering, I believe. I know that at least my life, and my particular culture, is embedded in much suffering. I believe, although I cannot speak for others, that this is true for most of us, and that this must be addressed. We must address the psychic suffering and its relationship with socioeconomic factors. And also the psychic factors that generate socioeconomic suffering. These dimensions are intertwined, and we can separate them in order to study them–however, to think that they operate separately in the world is a rather unfortunate premise.

I know that many people in this list have worked in this direction (considering culture, politics, and sociology in relation with psychology), which is work that I deeply appreciate and one of the reasons I joined this discussion forum.

Josefa, I am familiar with The Cultural Complex. It is quite a valuable book in my opinion, particularly because it points in an interesting direction. And yes, Zoja’s essay is quite interesting; there is also an article in that same book written by a Mexican analyst, Jacqueline Gerson. I believe that the book, in fact, was part of a larger effort made by Spring Journal and Books to foster dialogue on cultural, social, and ethnic matters. I am currently reading an exquisite book that might be relevant to this discussion, although it deals with Freudian psychoanalysis. It is titled Dark Continents, written by Ranjana Khanna–perhaps some of you are familiar with it.

Once more I am trying to convey more a position of tension than anything else. I am very vehement on certain positions regarding our treatment of cultural or ethnic matters simply because I find them genuinely hurtful. But I suppose that this is simply part of struggling with shadow.

And yes, perhaps Jung might have disapproved of my positions, but this does not trouble me much. Perhaps being a Jungian is not my calling, I can live with that.

Best regards to all,

Gustavo Beck

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