Library Talk: The Racist Fantasy

Dr. Leon Brenner and Prof. Todd McGowan on the unconscious dimension of racism

What stands out about racism is its ability to withstand efforts to legislate or educate it away. In "The Racist Fantasy", Todd McGowan argues that its persistence is due to a massive unconscious investment in a fundamental racist fantasy. As long as this fantasy continues to underlie contemporary society, McGowan claims, racism will remain with us, no matter how strenuously we struggle to eliminate it.

The racist fantasy, a fantasy in which the racial other is a figure who blocks the enjoyment of the racist, is a shared social structure. No one individual invented it, and no one individual is responsible for its perpetuation. While no one is guilty for the emergence of the racist fantasy, people are nonetheless responsible for keeping it alive and thus responsible for fighting against it.

"The Racist Fantasy" examines how this fantasy provides the psychic basis for the racism that appears so conspicuously throughout modern history. In this talk we will discuss how the racist fantasy informs everything from lynching and police shootings to Hollywood blockbusters and musical tastes. We will also discuss the struggle against racism, a struggle that involves dislodging the fantasy structure and to change the capitalist relations that require it.

Todd McGowan teaches film and critical theory in the English Department at the University of Vermont. He has written books on the intersection of psychoanalytic theory, German Idealism, cinema, and literature. They include The End of Dissatisfaction (SUNY Press, 2004), The Impossible David Lynch (Columbia University Press, 2007), and The Real Gaze: Film Theory After Lacan (SUNY Press, 2007). He was also the co-editor (with Sheila Kunkle) of Lacan and Contemporary Film (Other Press, 2004). He has written a book on the idea of atemporal cinema and a book on the political implications of psychoanalytic theory. His most recent book, The Fictional Christopher Nolan, analyzes the importance of the lie in Nolan's films.

Dr. Leon S. Brenner is a lecturer at the International Psychoanalytic University, Berlin. He is a member of the APPI, LOB, and a founder of Lacanian Affinities Berlin (laLAB) and Unconscious Berlin. His latest book on the subject of the psychoanalysis of autism is called The Autistic Subject: On the Threshold of Language, where he presents a novel account of autistic subjectivity from a Lacanian psychoanalytic perspective.

Details and Registration

On 4 April at 8 pm via Zoom. Please register using the form below. You will receive the zoom link afterwards.