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'Hands, Face, Space': Psychoanalysis and Magical Thinking in COVID-19 Times

Vyrgioti, Maria (2022) ''Hands, Face, Space': Psychoanalysis and Magical Thinking in COVID-19 Times.' In: Voela, Angie and Ellis, Darren, (eds.) After Lockdown, Opening Up: Psychosocial Transformation in the Wake of COVID-19. Studies in the Psychosocial . Palgrave.

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In this chapter, I explore magical thinking and its relation to secular rituals emerging during the COVID-19 pandemic. To do so, I first look at historical approaches of cleanliness and hygiene as practices imbued in symbolic meaning. Cleaning, washing, polishing, whitening, purifying and exploiting the magical powers of soap have been experiences deeply embedded in the imperial economy of domesticity and the colonial configuration of blackness as pollution and dirt. Bringing these racialised dynamics to light, I ask what happens to magical thinking in the post-imperial, Western, secular societies. Focusing on UK government’s campaign ‘Hands, Face, Space’, I suggest that the popularisation of a science-based protection ceremony is an invitation to embrace not only scientific reason, but the magic of science too. I conclude the chapter with a psychoanalytic interrogation of magical thinking. I argue that instead of encouraging magical thinking in relation to scientific-based rituals, in the post-lockdown society we need to find ways of rekindling what the Hungarian anthropologist and psychoanalyst Géza Róheim calls the ‘magic principle’; as a non-psychotic form of magic that does not rely on magical rituals but on the anticipation of being looked after from others. Against the magical wish to ‘wash our hands to happy birthday’, I juxtapose a magical thinking that prompts us to place a demand for care on the external world. It is only through a decolonial approach to psychoanalysis that the psychosocial implications of care and the anticipation for a more caring society can be explored and pursued in the post-pandemic world.

Item Type: Book Section
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences > Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies, Department of
SWORD Depositor: Elements
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 07 Feb 2022 14:11
Last Modified: 07 Feb 2022 14:12

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