Psychology & Anthropology

A drawing by Peter Campbell.

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Adam Phillips

20 May 2021

Tragedies – which Freud uses to make sense of childhood experiences, never comedies – are about the tragic hero’s attempted self-cure for the ordeals of exclusion. Being left out begins as tragedy, and tragedy, Freud suggests, is integral to development. So the developmental question – the moral question – is this: is there another and better solution to feeling left out than revenge?

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The Science of Man

Francis Gooding

4 March 2021

Franz Boas wasn’t in the least woolly-minded or anti-scientific. On the contrary, he was committed to the scientific meth­ods in which he had been trained, and dedicated to the clear-eyed analysis . . .

On the Barone

John Foot

4 March 2021

In September​ the Uruguayan footballer Luis Suárez turned up at the Università per Stranieri in Perugia to take an Italian test. This tough language exam, a requirement for anybody . . .

Schizophrenia in the Family

Deborah Friedell

18 February 2021

What is it like to have psychosis? Robert Kolker has spent hundreds of hours with the Galvins, but they can’t tell him. So I turn to Elyn Saks. She says it’s like a waking nightmare: ‘all . . .

Brain Warfare

Mike Jay

4 February 2021

It​ was during the fallout from Watergate that the American public first heard of MK-Ultra, the most notorious of the secret mind control programmes that the CIA ran through the 1950s and 1960s . . .

Where on Earth are you?

Frances Stonor Saunders, 3 March 2016

We construct borders, literally and figuratively, to fortify our sense of who we are; and we cross them in search of who we might become.

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Against Self-Criticism

Adam Phillips, 5 March 2015

Lacan​ said that there was surely something ironic about Christ’s injunction to love thy neighbour as thyself – because actually, of course, people hate themselves. Or you could say that, given the way people treat one another, perhaps they had always loved their neighbours in the way they loved themselves.

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Ghosts of the Tsunami

Richard Lloyd Parry, 6 February 2014

I met a priest in the north of Japan who exorcised the spirits of people who had drowned in the tsunami.

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Sinking Giggling into the Sea: Giggling along with Boris

Jonathan Coe, 18 July 2013

Boris Johnson has become his own satirist, safe in the knowledge that the best way to make sure the satire aimed at you is gentle and unchallenging is to create it yourself.

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Among the Flutterers: The Pope Wears Prada

Colm Tóibín, 19 August 2010

In 1993 John McGahern wrote an essay called ‘The Church and Its Spire’, in which he considered his own relationship to the Catholic Church. He made no mention of the fact that he had,...

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The Uninvited: At The Rich Man’s Gate

Jeremy Harding, 3 February 2000

Refugees are not necessarily poor, but by the time they have reached safety, the human trafficking organisations on which they depend have eaten up much of their capital. In the course of excruciating journeys, mental and physiological resources are also expended – some of them non-renewable.

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Dynasty: Lacan and Co

Sherry Turkle, 6 December 1990

Freud believed that psychoanalysis was so deeply subversive of people’s most cherished beliefs that only resistance to psychoanalytic ideas would reveal where they were being taken...

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Fortress Freud

Mary-Kay Wilmers, 18 April 1985

Psychoanalysts have a difficult relationship with the rest of the world – or, as they sometimes call it, ‘the goyim’. Janet Malcolm’s two very striking books of reportage,...

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Is Michael Neve paranoid?

Michael Neve, 2 June 1983

‘Havelock Ellis has sent me the sixth volume of his studies, Sex in Relation to Society,’ Freud wrote to Jung, in late April 1910. ‘Unfortunately my receptivity is consumed by...

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The Limits of Caste

Hazel V. Carby, 21 January 2021

Race, Isabel Wilkerson claims, is ‘a recent phenomenon in human history’, deriving from the Spanish word raza (in the context of the Atlantic slave trade), and ‘caste’ the much...

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At the British Museum: Tantra

James Butler, 21 January 2021

It began​ with the beheading of a god. In a dispute over theological primacy, Brahma – traditionally identified as the creator – insulted Shiva. The offended deity poured all his...

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The Head in the Shed: Reading Bones

Gavin Francis, 21 January 2021

When the police bring Sue Black a bag of bones and ask what she makes of them she starts out with four questions: Are they human? Are they of forensic interest? Who was this person? Do they tell us anything...

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Twenty Types of Human: Among the Neanderthals

John Lanchester, 17 December 2020

That feeling of similar-but-not-quite is present all through the history of our engagement with the Neanderthals: when we look at them we are looking at a distorted reflection in a mirror. As with a mirror-gazer,...

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Mothers were different: The Breadwinner Norm

Susan Pedersen, 19 November 2020

Fathers sat down to a kipper or a boiled egg at breakfast (and gave one fav­oured child the top); their dependants ate porridge. Kind fathers sometimes shared tidbits; others avoided the whole drama...

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To Die One’s Own Death

Jacqueline Rose, 19 November 2020

Freud is offering a philosophy of grief. He helps us understand why what is happening among us now can feel as much an internal as an external catastrophe. Death in a pandemic is no way to die.

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Cultural conservatives aren’t trying to protect language from politics; they are simply sanguine about the politics that language already has. 

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Not in Spanish: Bilingualism

Michael Hofmann, 21 May 2020

The author is obviously in love with his subject, taking it everywhere with him, seeing it wherever he goes. ‘Most of the people I know are bilingual’ is his delightful shrug.

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Short Cuts: Internet Speak

Lauren Oyler, 7 May 2020

The tone of my correspondence veers from ebullient to combative to conspiratorial to semi-ironically frustrated, outraged, mournful. A message that follows spelling and grammar conventions is rare; it’s...

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Beyond​ a few tabloid stories, the Westboro Baptist Church didn’t really hit the news until 2005, when its members started picketing funerals of soldiers killed in the Iraq War, with signs...

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Once democracy and public argument are premised on the logic of the platform, it simply doesn’t matter what anyone says or does, so long as they remain engaged and engaging. President Trump is the...

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How to Buy Drugs

Misha Glenny and Callum Lang, 7 November 2019

Once you’ve placed your order, you should expect to pick up the drugs at the designated rendezvous point within an hour or so. If you find yourself having to wait any longer you may want to choose...

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Tilting the day: Writing about Clothes

Lisa Cohen, 7 November 2019

‘About​ clothes, it’s awful,’ the protagonist thinks in Jean Rhys’s novel Voyage in the Dark (1934). Everything makes you want pretty clothes like hell. People laugh at...

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The Greer Method

Mary Beard, 24 October 2019

What is driving these attacks? Why are her critics so determined to deplore and ridicule? What lies behind the selective misreading that turns a provocative pamphlet, no more flawed than many others of...

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My mother’s​ right hand ended in a cloth. She cleaned the local school from six a.m. and again in the evening, doing a chip shop in between. I got to know all the women. They were...

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Soothe and Scold: Mothers

Helen McCarthy, 12 September 2019

My first child​ was born in a hospital room in East London on a February morning after 12 hours of labour. Our doula, who had arrived the previous evening, bringing cushions in a supermarket...

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The important question is not whether a truly gender-blind capitalism is possible, but whether that would be an equality worth fighting for.

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Civility​ as a concept, or an ideal, didn’t take hold in England until the 16th century – when the national mood, insofar as we can speak of one, was a mixture of bravado and...

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