Dept of Psychosocial Studies | Our research | Current research projects | Synchronic Entanglements and New Social Imaginaries: Anti-War Activism in Brazil and the United Kingdom in the Twenty-First Century
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Synchronic Entanglements and New Social Imaginaries: Anti-War Activism in Brazil and the United Kingdom in the Twenty-First Century

Marie Curie International Outgoing Fellowship, held by Dr Raluca Soreanu, under the mentorship of Professor Stephen Frosh (January 2013 – December 2015, Marie Curie Actions, FP7-PEOPLE-2011-IOF, project number 301787).

The project’s aim was to investigate the practices and modes of association of activists in Brazil and in the UK, while putting emotions and synchronicity at the centre of social process. The project also proposed investigating the place of war/peace symbols in contemporary social imaginaries. Ultimately, the project worked toward a psychosocial perspective on collective creativity.

For the first two years of research, Dr Raluca Soreanu was hosted at the Instituto de Estudos Sociais e Políticos, Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, while for the third year she was based at the Department of Psychosocial Studies, Birkbeck, London, UK.

Objectives

The research project took shape in relation to four research objectives. Firstly, the project proposed an articulation between micro-analysis and macro-analysis, by studying the relationship between the biographic events of activists and the events of the social movements. Central to this was the elaboration of notions of event and eventfulness.

Secondly, the project proposed to study the problem of synchronicity and synchronic entanglements; and stressed the importance of rhythm and the embodied dimension of politics. Thirdly, the project proposed a study of the pluralisation of political imaginaries, thought of as a form of collective creativity and resistance. Fourthly, the project proposed an analytics of the boundaries that emerge between state and society.

Results and Contributions

The research makes a contribution to the following domains: (1) studies on collective creativities and the creativities of protest; (2) peace movements research; (3) studies in psychosocial epistemology and methodology; (4) psychoanalytic, as well as political and ethical theories of recognition; (5) trauma studies; psychosocial studies on collective trauma; (6) studies in semiotics and psychoanalysis; (7) studies in social memory.

In terms of its broader social impact, the research is relevant for civil society groups, especially groups of political activists in Brazil and the United Kingdom, as it provides a reflection on collective creativity and on activist practices. The research is equally relevant for policy makers working on political rights and memory policies. Understanding collective trauma, recognition, public mourning, and the creativities of public gatherings and protests is crucial to the debate on political rights.

During the first two years of research in Brazil, in Rio de Janeiro, Dr Soreanu carried out an innovative multi-method approach for the study of collective process, which relied on biographic interviews and psychosocial ethnography. This methodology grounded a novel way of construing the relation between micro-events and macro-events and between psyche and society.

There are a number of specificities of that configure meaning of violence, war and peace in the Brazilian context, and particularly in Rio de Janeiro. What is here meant by “war” and “peace” has been greatly marked by the relatively recent process of “pacification of the favelas” [“pacificação”] in Rio de Janeiro, and by the arrival of the Pacifying Police Units [“Unidades de Polícia Pacificadora”] in the favelas starting with 2008. These interventions have created intricate legal-political-social regimes. One of the most important themes emerging from the interviews was the “war within” Brazilian society, pointing to unmourned deaths and disappearances both during the time of the Brazilian military dictatorship and during the times of democracy. Furthermore, it is important to note that in June 2013 street protests of an unprecedented scale sparked up in Brazil, and they continued throughout 2013 and 2014, constituting the context of this research.

Drawing on the extensive fieldwork of the first two years of research, Dr Soreanu formulated a psychosocial theory of collective trauma, anchoring it in ideas of denial and recognition. This original theoretical contribution and the most important findings of the project are reflected in the researcher’s book manuscript, Working-through Collective Wounds: Trauma, Denial, Recognition in the Brazilian Uprising, forthcoming in 2016 with Palgrave, Studies in the Psychosocial series.

During the third year of research in the United Kingdom, in London, Dr Soreanu studied the contemporary re-emergence and re-configuration of “war” as a political object, and the forms of embodiment it entails. In the context of the current unfoldings in Europe around the growing influx of people fleeing the conflict areas in Syria and the neighbouring countries, the anti-war activists report having revised their ideas on the proximity of war and of the proximity to bodies touched by war, and elaborated on the place of the symbol “refugee” in their political imaginaries.

In the third year of the fellowship, Dr Raluca Soreanu and Professor Stephen Frosh collaborated in organising an interdisciplinary conference at the host institution, titled: Creativities of Protest: Imaginaries, Commons and Reparations. The event created a space for a polyphonic reflection on the forms of social creativity specific to protest mobilisations. The encounter focused on the “positivities” and on the productive facets of protests, countering their commonplace representation as “chaotic”, and rethinking the distinction between chaos and order, which has become predominant in making sense of mass mobilisations. The event brought together philosophers, social and political thinkers, scholars in psychosocial studies, and psychoanalysts from Brazil, the United Kingdom, and beyond, with the aim of mutual exchange and learning about the creativities of collective action; and with the aim of theoretical construction on three themes: [1] commons and co-habitations; [2] hauntings and social imaginaries; and [3] trauma and public mourning.

Publications

Books

  • Soreanu, R. Working-through Collective Wounds: Trauma, Denial, Recognition in the Brazilian Uprising [Palgrave, Studies in the Psychosocial Series, forthcoming 2016]

Journal Articles

  • Soreanu, R. (2016) ‘Ferenczi’s Times: The Tangent, the Segment, the Meandering Line’. American Imago 73(1): (forthcoming).
  • Soreanu, R. (2015) ‘O que pode um rosto? O que pode um braço? O levante brasileiro e a nova estética do protesto’ [‘What Can a Face Do? What Can an Arm Do? The Brazilian Uprising and a New Aesthetic of Protest’]. Lugar Comum 43: 203-225 [in Portuguese].
  • Soreanu, R. and Hurducaș, I. (2015) ‘Children’s Imaginaries in the City: On Ghosts, Things and Materials’. Children’s Geographies 14(2): 1-15.
  • Soreanu, R. (2014) ‘Death, Gold and the Square: Rhythm-analysis in a Time of Protests’. Studia Sociologia 59(2): 117-136.
  • Soreanu, R. (2014) ‘Por uma análise rítmica dos protestos’ [‘For a Rhyhtm-analysis of Protests’]. Revista Política & Trabalho40: 171-197 [in Portuguese].

Book Chapters

Conference Collections

Reviews

  • Soreanu, R. 2015. ‘O Inconsciente social’. Cadernos de Psicanálise – CPRJ 37(32): 231-237 [in Portuguese].
  • Soreanu, R. 2016. ‘The Social Unconscious, by Carla Penna’. Journal of Group Psychotherapy: forthcoming.

Blog Entries and Opinion Pieces

Interviews

Conference Presentations

  • Soreanu, R. ‘How We Mourned Together: Brazil, June 2013 and after’. Symposium on ‘Creativities of Protest: Imaginaries, Commons and Reparations’. Department of Psychosocial Studies and Birkbeck Institute for Social Research, Birkbeck College, London, UK, November 19, 2015.
  • Soreanu, R. ‘Sándor Ferenczi’s Epistemologies and Their Politics: On Utraquism and the Analogical Method’. Conference on ‘Psycho-politics: The Cross-Sections of Science and Ideology in the History of Psy-sciences’, Budapest, Hungary, October 30-31, 2015.
  • Soreanu, R. ‘Ferenczi’s Times: The Tangent-Out, the Segments, the Meandering Line’. International Sándor Ferenczi Conference, The Canadian Society of Psychoanalysis, Toronto, Canada, May 7-10, 2015.
  • Soreanu, R. ‘Working-through Collective Wounds: A Ferenczian Perspective on Trauma, Denial, and Recognition’. Conference on ‘The Moral Third’ with Jessica Benjamin. The University of Humanistic Studies, Utrecht, Netherlands, April 21-22, 2015.
  • Soreanu, R. ‘The Oblique Politics of the Brazilian Uprising: Toward a New Semiotics of Protest’. The Brazilian Studies Association Congress, BRASA XII, King’s College London, United Kingdom, August 20-24, 2014.
  • Soreanu, R. ‘Shapes of Sound and Radical Social Imaginaries: The Oblique Politics of the Brazilian Uprising’. II Encontro Internacional sobre Imaginários Sonoros, Curitiba, November 5, 2013.
  • Soreanu, R. ‘Outlaw Emotions: Working-Through a Psychoanalytic Sociology of the Mind’. 37 Encotro Anual da Associação Nacional de Pós-Graduação e Pesquisa em Ciências Sociais (ANPOCS), Águas de Lindóia, Brazil, September 24, 2013.
  • Soreanu, R. ‘Children’s Urban Imaginaries: Activist Alliances and Reclaiming the City Through Materials’. XVI Congresso Brasileiro de Sociologia. Sociedade Brasileira de Sociologia (SBS), UFBA Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, September 11, 2013.
  • Soreanu, R. ‘Rhythm-analysis of the New Revolutionary Movements: Death, Gold and the Square’. Fourth International and Interdisciplinary Conference on Emotional Geographies. University of Groningen, Netherlands, July 1-3, 2013.

Invited Talks

  • Soreanu, R. ‘Social Clinics and the Social Creativities of Psychoanalysis: A Vignette from Rio de Janeiro’. Symposium on Mental Health Reform in Brazil, part of King’s Brazil Week, King’s College, London, UK, 25 January 2016.
  • Soreanu, R. ‘Objects of Psychic Convertibility: Clinical Reflections on Borderline Functioning’. Birkbeck Psychoanalysis Research Group, London, UK, 22 October 2015.
  • Soreanu, R. ‘Working-through Collective Wounds in the Brazilian Uprising’. Department of Psychosocial Studies, Birkbeck College, London, UK, 12 October 2015.
  • Soreanu, R. ‘What Can a Face Do? What Can an Arm Do? The Brazilian Uprising and a New Aesthetic of Protest’. Sociofilo research group, Instituto de Estudos Sociais e Políticos, Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, December 2014.
  • Soreanu, R. ‘When Being in the Square Heals: Trauma and Spaces of Reconciliation in the Brazilian Uprising’. Escola de Comunicação e Programa em Ciência de Informação (Ibict), Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, December 2014.
  • Soreanu, R. ‘Facialidades e a nova estética do protesto’ [‘Facialities and the New Aesthetic of Protest’]. Casa de Rui Barbosa, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, September 24, 2014.
  • Soreanu, R. ‘Rhythm-analysis for the New Revolutionary Movements’. Talk at the Instituto de Estudos Sociais e Políticos, Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, August 16, 2013.
  • Soreanu, R. ‘Rhythm-analysis for the New Revolutionary Movements: Death, Gold and the Square’. Talk at Sociofilo (social theory research group), Instituto de Estudos Sociais e Políticos, Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, May 2013.

Courses Developed

  • Soreanu, R. ‘Slow-thinking the Revolution: Radical Social Imaginaries in the Making’ [‘Pensar-lentamente a revolução: Imaginários sociais radicais em construção’]: short course (5 sessions) developed in August – October 2013 for postgraduate students.
    Course website:http://pensarlentamentearevolucao.wordpress.com/

Conference Organisation

  • Dr Raluca Soreanu and Professor Stephen Frosh collaborated in organising an interdisciplinary conference at Birkbeck, on November 19, 2015, titled: Creativities of Protest: Imaginaries, Commons and Reparations (One-day symposium with Brazilian guests). The event brought together scholars from Brazil, the UK, and beyond. Among the speakers, we mention: Giuseppe Cocco (political theorist, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), Maria Rita Kehl (psychoanalyst in private practice, São Paulo, Brazil, and former member of the Brazilian Truth Commission - Comissão Nacional da Verdade), Gail Lewis (psychosocial scholar, Birkbeck College, London, UK), Peter Pál Pelbart (philosopher, Pontifícia Universidade Católica de São Paulo, Brazil), Judit Szekacs (psychoanalyst in private practice, Hungarian Psychoanalytical Society and British Psychoanalytical Society).
  • The symposium created a space for a polyphonic reflection on the forms of social creativity specific to protest mobilisations. The participants drew on the work of thinkers such as Cornelius Castoriadis, Sándor Ferenczi, Sigmund Freud, Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, Antonio Negri, among others. The participants aimed to reflect on the cultural repertoires of protest that are specific to the scene of collective mobilisation in given countries (thinking mainly about Brazil and the United Kingdom); but to also broaden the discussion to address the commonalities in the semiotisations of collective action in different localities across the globe, observing the trans-local qualities of the protest events. The three dialogues that the symposium proposed were: [Dialogue 1] Constructing “commons” and co-habitations; [Dialogue 2] Meaning, hauntings and social imaginaries; [Dialogue 3] Memory, trauma and reparation: On protest and public mourning.