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Christina Research Seminar: A psychoanalyst looks at the Bisexual Subject and its Gender
Christina Research Seminar (SKY Advanced Research Seminar) on Tuesday 12th February at 16-18.

Venue: Lecture hall C120, Unioninkatu 38 (Topelia)
Juliet Mitchell (Professor Emerita, University of Cambridge)

"A psychoanalyst looks at the Bisexual Subject and its Gender"

My talk has two interdependent themes: that ‘ bisexuality’ is first and foremost a subject position and only secondarily the choice of partners of either sex and that ‘gender’ should be distinguished from what goes under the term of ‘sexual difference’. The union of these two themes is part of a wider argument that hopes to construct the psychosocial along a horizontal axis starting with the lateral relation of siblings. As well as gendered we are always bisexual subjects. The bisexual infant, the ‘toddler’ (so far the baby of the family) only acquires the subjective meaning of gender when a subsequent sibling is born or expected and it becomes a sister or a brother.

Although the clinical work of group, child and family psychoanalysts abounds in observations of siblings these are invariably made to fit into the dominant paradigm of individual analysis which is a vertical ‘family’ axis of parent and child. Instead we should see that we are born into a social world as well as a family and social relations are as much lateral as lineal.

From a gender perspective a horizontal axis is very different. ‘Sexual difference’ is instituted as the ineluctable distinction inaugurated by the castration complex under the law of the father. It relates to vertical reproduction and despite reproductive technologies it is a psychic (not biological) insistence that one sex cannot be the other. Gender, a wider category, should be kept for lateral relations and sexuality. Instead of parenting, under the provenance of women , it leads to marriage (and sex trafficking) and, for men, to legal war and ‘terrorism’. The horizontal psychosocial is constructed through prohibitions and allowances which initially come from a law of the mother operating between her children.

Juliet Mitchell was born in New Zealand in 1940. In 1944 she went to England by wartime convoy. She first lectured in English literature but following ‘Women: the Longest Revolution’ in 1966, curiosity about hostility to Freud led to a series of short interventions culminating in Psychoanalysis and Feminism (1974) followed by becoming a psychoanalyst. During the seventies, eighties and nineties she published and co-published (with Anne Oakley, Jacqueline Rose and Michael Parsons) on literature, feminism and psychoanalysis. Since 1998 she has been writing and lecturing about a horizontal axis of sociality starting with the lateral relations of siblings. She established and directed a Centre for Gender Studies in the University of Cambridge and a PhD programme in Theoretical Psychoanalysis at UCL. She is Professor Emerita at the University of Cambridge and Professorial Research Fellow at UCLondon. She is a Fellow of Jesus College Cambridge and of the British Academy and the British and International Psychoanalytical Associations.

Christina Research Seminar is an open advanced seminar focused around interdisciplinary gender studies chaired by Professor Tuija Pulkkinen. The seminar is organized by Gender Studies (University of Helsinki) and is currently a part of the doctoral programme of Gender, Culture and Society (SKY). For the future programme and more information, please see: https://www.helsinki.fi/en/research/doctoral-education/doctoral-schools-and-programmes/doctoral-school-in-humanities-and-social-sciences/doctoral-programme-in-gender-culture-and-society/courses-and-events
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12.02.2019 16:00-18:00
Helsinki, Finland