Islam, Psychoanalysis, and the Arabic Freud

Episode 291

hosted by Susanna Ferguson

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A tale of mutual ignorance between psychoanalysis and Islam has obscured the many creative and co-constitutive encounters between these two traditions of thought, both so prominent in the 20th century. This presumed incommensurability has hardened the lines between the "modern subject," assumed to be secular and Western, and its Others, often associated with Islam or with the East. In this episode on her forthcoming book, The Arabic Freud, Dr. Omnia El Shakry asks what it might mean to think psychoanalysis and Islam together as a "creative encounter of ethical engagement." She shows how psychoanalysts and thinkers in Egypt after World War II drew on Freud and Horney alongside Ibn 'Arabi and Abu Bakr al-Razi to explore the nature of the modern subject, the role of the unconscious, and the gendered process of ethical attunement. In so doing, she suggests that Arabic psychoanalytic texts were neither epiphenomenal to politics nor simply political allegory for nationalism or decolonization; rather, we have ethical and historiographical responsibilities to read these texts and others like them as something more than a product of their time.

Release Date: 8 January 2017

This episode is part of a series entitled "History of Science, Ottoman or Otherwise."

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Contributor Bios

Omnia El Shakry is Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Davis. She is the author of The Great Social Laboratory: Subjects of Knowledge in Colonial and Postcolonial Egypt (Stanford UP, 2007) and The Arabic Freud: Psychoanalysis and Islam in Modern Egypt (Princeton UP, 2017, forthcoming), as well as editor of the multi-volume Gender and Sexuality in Islam (Routledge, 2016).
Susanna Ferguson is a Ph.D. Candidate in Middle Eastern History at Columbia University. She is currently working on a dissertation entitled "Tracing Tarbiya: Women, Gender and Childrearing in Egypt and Lebanon, 1865-1939."  

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Episode No. 291
Release Date: 8 January 2017
Recording Location: University of California, Davis
Audio editing by Chris Gratien
Music: from - Harmandali - Recep Efendi, Cemal Efendi; from Excavated Shellac - Munira al-Mahdiyya – Aldahre Kataâ Awsali
Special thanks to Kara Güneş for permission to use the composition "Istanbul" in the outro.
Bibliography courtesy of Omnia El Shakry and Susanna Ferguson

Select Bibliography

Asad, Talal. "The Idea of an Anthropology of Islam." Occasional Papers, Center for Contemporary Arab Studies. Washington, DC, Georgetown University, 1986.

Bakan, David. Sigmund Freud and the Jewish Mystical Tradition. New York: Schocken Books, 1965.

El Shakry, Omnia. The Arabic Freud: Psychoanalysis and Islam in Modern Egypt. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2017, forthcoming.

_____. "The Arabic Freud: The Unconscious and the Modern Subject." Modern Intellectual History 11, no.1 (2014): 89-118.

_____. The Great Social Laboratory: Subjects of Knowledge in Colonial and Postcolonial Egypt. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2007.

Fathi, Muhammad. Mushkilat al-Tahlil al-Nafsi fi Misr: Dirasatiha Min al-Nawahi al-ʿIlmiyya wa-l-Ijtimaʿiyya wa-l-Qadaʾiyya wa-l-Tashriʿiyya. Cairo: Matbaʿat Misr, 1946.

Foucault, Michel. The Archaeology of Knowledge, translated by AM Sheridan Smith. New York: Pantheon, 1972.

_____. "What Is an Author?" Language, Counter-Memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews, trans. Donald F. and Sherry Simon Bouchard, and ed. Donald F. Bouchard. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1977.

Freud, Sigmund. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volumes 1-24. Edited by James Strachey. London: Hogarth Press, 1981.

Gay, Peter. A Godless Jew: Freud, Atheism, and the Making of Psychoanalysis. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1989.

al-Ghazali, Abu Hamid Muhammad. ʿIhya ʿUlum al-Din. Volumes 1-4. Cairo: Dar al-Shaʿab, n.d.

Horney, Karen. Feminine Psychology. New York: W.W. Norton, 1967.

Ibn al-ʿArabi. The Bezels of Wisdom. Translated by R.W.J. Austin. Mahwah: Paulist Press, 1980.

Koselleck, Reinhart. The Practice of Conceptual History: Timing History, Spacing Concepts. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002.

Murad, Yusuf. Sikulujiyat al-Jins. Cairo: Dar al-Maʿarif, 1954.

Murad, Yusuf and Mustafa Ziywar, eds. Majallat ʿIlm al-Nafs. Volumes 1-8. Issued by the Society of Integrative Psychology. Cairo: Dar al-Maʿarif, 1945-1953.

Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. "Paranoid Reading and Reparative Reading, or, You're So Paranoid, You Probably Think This Essay Is About You." Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity. Durham: Duke University Press, 2003.


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