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Article

Lindsey Decker and Kendall R. Phillips

The term horror film refers to a wide variety of films generally understood to focus on frightening topics like ghosts, monsters, and murder. Horror films have been consistently popular among filmgoers since the earliest days of cinema in part because the genre has developed so many diverse variations in terms of theme, style, and tone. Popular horror films have employed supernatural elements, alien invaders, homicidal individuals, and wide scale apocalyptic themes. In part because of their variety and endurance, scholars from various disciplines have inquired into their nature and appeal. A substantial body of scholarship has grown up around the horror film. Scholars have inquired into the nature of the horror film, the reasons it might appeal to audiences, the evolution of the genre across time, and the relationship between these frightening films and the broader culture.

Article

Yannis Stavrakakis and Antonis Galanopoulos

Arguably one of the most important political theorists of our time, Ernesto Laclau has produced an extremely influential theoretical corpus involving a multitude of methodological and political implications. His contribution is mainly focused on three fields; discourse, hegemony, and populism, all of them highly connected with communication and mediation processes. In particular, Ernesto Laclau has introduced, throughout his career, a complex conceptual apparatus (comprising concepts like articulation, the nodal point, dislocation, the empty signifier, etc.) as a result of the radicalization and re-elaboration of the Gramscian conceptualization of hegemony. According to this framework, elaborated for the first time in Hegemony and Socialist Strategy, co-authored with Chantal Mouffe (first published in 1985), discourse is a social practice that performatively shapes the social world. Human reality is thus articulated through discourse and obtains its meaning precisely through this discursive mediation. All social practices are therefore understood as discursive ones. To the extent, however, that processes of articulation are never taking place in a vacuum and are bound to involve different or antagonistic political orientations, the field of discursivity comes to be seen as a field marked throughout by the primacy of the political. As a result, any hegemony will be contingent, partial, and temporary. In addition, Laclau is one of the most well known analysts of populism, to which he has (partly) devoted two of his books, Politics and Ideology in Marxist Theory (1977) and On Populist Reason (2005). Populism, for Laclau, is designated, as expected, as discourse, as a specific way to articulate and communicate social demands as well as to form popular identities, to construct “the people.” His elaborations of populism are surely critical for the analysis of a pervasive political phenomenon of our era. All in all, the thought of Ernesto Laclau remains influential in the sphere of theory and political practice, and his theoretical arsenal will be an extremely helpful tool for academics and researchers of discourse theory and political communication.

Article

Bhavya Chitranshi and Anup Dhar

Here we, on the one hand, revisit the standard operating procedure in development strategies—“communication (technologies) for development”—and move instead to “development for facilitating communication” through exploring questions such as: Does communication facilitate development? Or does development facilitate communication? Which kind of communication can engender development? Which kind of development can ensure communication with the “margins”? We thus tighten and deepen the connection between the nature of development and the nature of communication; in the process we see communication for development and development for communication as mutually constitutive. We also invoke the question of praxis in three forms: (a) by exploring the connection between praxis and communication and seeing communication as not just a technique but as a question of praxis—where theories of communication and practices of communication are in a relationship, (b) by seeing developmental praxis as intimately tied to the question of communication, and (c) by letting praxis emerge as the “middle term” or the connecting link between development and communication. We deconstruct three discourses of development: the growth-centric discourse, those offering “developmental alternatives” (like human developmental perspectives), and those presenting “alternatives to development” (like postdevelopmentalist positions focused on “third world” or the “local,” etc.), to move to a fourth discourse that problematizes both modernism and capitalism, as it opens up the discourses of communication (modernist, dependency theory, participatory approach, etc.) for inquiry. We attempt to go beyond the modernist and capitalist understandings of development to introduce the logic-language-ethos of “world of the third” as against third world-ist imaginations. This helps us rethink the praxis of communication in creating, on the one hand, community- or social movements–driven developmental futures and, on the other, engendering post-Orientalist and postcapitalist forms of life in local or world of the third contexts. We also emphasize the need to reflect on the question of the “subject” (as also psychoanalytic conceptualizations of the “psyche”) and the need to learn to “work through” “groups” in order to usher in depth and nuance in the praxis of development communication.

Article

Within communication studies, critical and cultural scholars will likely encounter psychoanalytic methods by way of rhetoric scholarship, which has made plentiful and recurring use of Freudian and Lacanian concepts. A survey of psychoanalytic methods “before” and “after” the linguistic turn is offered—juxtaposing key concepts with rhetorical scholarship that employs psychoanalytic terms of art. Psychoanalytic theory is foundationally the study of the unconscious. Before the linguistic turn, the Freudian theory of the unconscious informed Kenneth Burke’s theory of identification developed in A Rhetoric of Motives and numerous Jungian analyses of cinematic texts. In the linguistic turn’s aftermath, the psychoanalytic theory of Jacques Lacan contributed understandings of speech, identification, and rhetoric that transformed Freud’s original formulations and productively supplemented Burke’s. These contributions, captured in Lacan’s four fundamental concepts of psychoanalysis, registers of the unconscious, and The “Seminar on ‘The Purloined Letter,’” illustrate a variety of ways that critical and cultural scholars have enlisted psychoanalysis to describe instances of public address, social movements, political and legal discourse, and cinema/film. The unique feature of Lacan’s approach is that the unconscious is structured like a language, which means that the unconscious is received as a speech act. Moreover, contrary to the view that the subject uses the signifier, Lacan maintains that the signifier exercises an organizing role over the subject and its desire. Conceived within the history, theory, and practice of rhetoric, psychoanalytic theory offers conceptually rich insights tethered to the concepts of the unconscious, the signifier, and the drive (among others) that are enabling to the aims of critical and cultural studies.

Article

Slavoj Žižek stands as one of the most influential contemporary philosophical minds, stretching across a wide variety of fields: not just communication and critical/cultural studies, but critical theory, theology, film, popular culture, political theory, aesthetics, and continental theory. He has been the subject (and object) of several documentaries, become the source of a “human megaphone” during Occupy Wall Street, and become, while still living, the subject of his own academic journal (the International Journal of Žižek Studies). Žižek’s theoretical claim to fame, aside from his actual claim to fame as a minor “celebrity philosopher,” is that he weaves together innovative interpretations of G. W. F. Hegel, Karl Marx, and Jacques Lacan to comment on a variety of subjects, from quantum physics to Alfred Hitchcock films to CIA torture sites. While there are as many “Žižeks” as there are philosophical problem-spaces, Žižek proposes an essential unity within his project; in his work, the triad Hegel-Marx-Lacan holds together like a Brunnian link—each link in the chain is essential for his project to function. Further, his intentionally provocative work acts as a counterweight to what he views as the dominant trends of philosophy and political theory since the 1980s—postmodernism, anti-foundationalism, deconstruction, vitalism, ethics, and, more recently, speculative realism and object-oriented ontology.

Article

Homi Bhabha (b. 1949) is among the founding generation of scholars of “postcolonial theory” as it emerged in the U.S. and U.K. academies in the 1980s and 1990s, and is currently the Anne F. Rothenberg Professor of English and American Literature and Language. Bhabha’s intellectual emergence coincided with the emergence of “postcolonial theory” in the 1980s and 1990s. Bhabha’s particular contribution to postcolonial critique is unique in successfully combining the fields of post-structuralism, history, and psychoanalysis, and in relationship to the texts and histories of British rule in South Asia. Bhabha is best situated within an often-overshadowed strain of postcolonial theory committed to the recovery of universality rather than the demand for particularity, a lineage that includes Frantz Fanon and Edward Said. Bhabha’s key concepts and terms, especially “ambivalence” and “hybridity,” have been taken up across many fields under the rubrics of postcolonial and/or diasporic intervention. Bhabha’s writing and theoretical arguments are based primarily in perpetual negotiation, in opposition to negation. Understanding this key intervention makes it possible to grasp the full scale of Bhabha’s driving concerns, theoretical conceptions, and political commitments.