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‘The Royal Road to the Colonial Unconscious’: Psychoanalysis, Cannibalism, and the Libidinal Economy of Colonialism

Vyrgioti, Marita (2021) '‘The Royal Road to the Colonial Unconscious’: Psychoanalysis, Cannibalism, and the Libidinal Economy of Colonialism.' Das Questões, 11 (1). pp. 266-286.

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Abstract

In this article, I explore the libidinal economy of colonialism from the perspective of cannibalism (as Western fantasy about the exotic, subhuman other). To do that, I closely follow references to the cannibal in the arsenal of anti-colonial, literary tropes and, in two poems by Oswald de Andrade and Aimé Césaire. Although the anti-colonial identification with the cannibal engenders the potential of a threatening reappropriation of that which has been colonially stolen, I show that something is left unacknowledged in this melancholic identification. I then turn to the work of Octave Mannoni who views the cannibal as a metaphor for the overwhelming dependency complex of the colonised. Analysing the colonial dyad from the perspective of personality complexes, Mannoni fixes the coloniser and the colonised in a power dynamic, which although addresses the psychological dimension of colonialism this is reduced to the level of an interpersonal conflict. Finally, I turn to the work of Frantz Fanon to show what a psychoanalytic reading of the colonial, libidinal economy can offer: emphasising the sexual connotations enclosed in the cannibalistic fantasy, Fanon exposes the viscerality of colonial racism as a wish to devour and annihilate the colonised. In Fanon’s work, psychoanalysis emerges as a potent tool which exposes the unconscious dynamics of sexualised and racialfantasies and as such it appears to be an indispensable for decolonial thinking.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Frantz Fanon; cannibalism; colonial libidinal economy; racism; homosexuality
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences
Faculty of Social Sciences > Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies, Department of
SWORD Depositor: Elements
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 14 Oct 2021 08:16
Last Modified: 06 Jan 2022 14:32
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/31223

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