The Prague Psychoanalytic Circle and its Legacies
Birkbeck Institute for Social Research (BISR) Psychoanalysis Working Group
Speaker: Dr Sarah Marks, Department of History, Classics and Archaeology
This paper makes the case for why the Prague Psychoanalytic Circle should be written back into the history of psychoanalysis, drawing on archival documents, published articles and 'samizdat' grey literature. It traces the establishment of psychoanalysis after 1917 by Russian emigres, through the Nazi occupation, and its resilience during the Communist period. In addition to discussing the close links forged between psychoanalysis, literary culture and the surrealist movement in interwar Czechoslovakia, I will focus on the clinical work of the Russian analyst Bohodar Dosužkov, who provided continuity to the movement through four political regime changes; including his work on phobias, and the fear of eye contact as a transference neurosis. The group was well established enough by 1936 to be recognised by the International Psychoanalytic Association and receive Annie Reich and Otto Fenichel as training analysts for a brief period before the Nazi occupation in 1938. Those analysts who survived the Second World War then had a significant role in shaping psychiatry under Communism, including the state-funded psychedelic psychotherapy projects which drew from Freud, Jung, Rank and Ferenczi. Finally, I will discuss the take-up of psychoanalysis by the Prague Spring reform movement in 1968.
Sarah Marks joined the Hidden Persuaders project as a post-doctoral researcher in October 2016. Sarah’s research focuses on the history of the psy-professions in the Soviet sphere during the Cold War. She completed her PhD on the history of psychiatry in Communist East Germany and Czechoslovakia at University College London in 2015, and held a research fellowship at Murray Edwards College, University of Cambridge between 2014 and 2016. Her research has focused on reconstructing the ways in which mental health and illness were understood and treated in the Communist context, how psy-professionals interacted with the regime, and how psychological knowledge and practice became useful for the project of building socialism and ‘winning hearts and minds’. She is also interested in the Cold War military interest in psychological techniques and mind control, including Soviet psychotronics research. Her publications include Psychiatry in Communist Europe, co-edited with Mat Savelli (Palgrave, 2015) and ‘From Experimental Psychosis to Resolving Traumatic Pasts: Psychedelic Research in Communist Czechoslovakia, 1954-1974’ Cahiers du monde russe (2015), and she is a member of the editorial board of History of the Human Sciences.
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The BISR Psychoanalysis Working Group provides a context for colleagues across Birkbeck to meet together to explore psychoanalytic theory and practice in all its diverse dimensions.