In radical Lacanian cultural critique, affirmations of unconscious desire and the reinvention of the symbolic order are frequently founded upon dismissals of the imaginary ego and its paranoid obsessions with meaning, coherence, and identity politics. By bringing Lacan’s theorization of the schizophrenic imaginary into conversation with the work of French psychoanalyst Françoise Dolto and the Martinican psychiatrist and militant philosopher Frantz Fanon, this essay challenges the hierarchical organization of the real, symbolic, and imaginary registers in dominant Lacanian critique. Simultaneously, the essay rethinks the very definition of imaginary narcissism through historically specific contexts of psychic fragmentation under colonial and postcolonial capitalism, offering a differential and material account of the production of identity politics that is at once decolonial and psychoanalytic. Contesting ahistorical accounts of imaginary plenitude underpinning theoretical rejections of identity, the essay insists on the need to see imaginary identitarianism and its symbolic and real consequences in terms of heuristic and situated “narcissistic wounds” that expose the profoundly unequal logic of equivalence subtending global capitalism.
Aberrant Narcissisms in Dolto, Lacan, and Fanon: Notes on a Wounded Imaginary
ani maitra is an assistant professor of global film and media at Colgate University. His recent publications include essays in New Intimacies, Old Desires: Law, Culture, and Queer Politics in Neoliberal Times (University of Chicago Press, 2017), the Routledge Handbook of New Media in Asia (Routledge, 2016), and Film Quarterly. He is currently working on a book manuscript tentatively titled “Identity, Mediation, and the Cunning of Capital.”