‘She Reigns and He Does Not Govern’: The Discourse of the Anxious Hysteric in post-apartheid South Africa

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Venue: Room B01 Clore Management Centre, Torrington Sq. Birkbeck, University of London
Booking details: Free entry; booking required

‘She Reigns and He Does Not Govern’: The Discourse of the Anxious Hysteric in post-apartheid South Africa

Speaker: Professor Jaco Barnard-Naudé

Anxiety and hysteria proliferate in contemporary postcolonial, postapartheid South Africa, where it is always intimately related to the question of the Law and, specifically, ‘the Constitution’. I begin by tracing Freud’s discussions of the co-occurrence of anxiety with hysteria, after which I consider Lacan’s unique account of anxiety as the ‘lack of the support of the lack’. I continue to offer a reinterpretation of the Master’s discourse (here, of liberal authority), namely as a discourse that in its very structure exposes the (postcolonial) subject to the production of the object of anxiety. I then consider two possible ways in which anxiety may affect the discourse of the Hysteric: acting out and the passage a` l’acte.  I conclude that Lacan’s shorthand for the relationship between the Hysteric and the Master is also an accurate description of the present moment in the postcolony: ‘she reigns and he does not govern’.

Jaco Barnard-Naudé is Professor of Jurisprudence in the Department of Private Law at the University of Cape Town and the British Academy Newton Advanced Fellow in the Law School at Westminster University.

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