"Black" and "Jew": race and the resistance to psychoanalysis in Italy.
Psychoanalysis, and in particular, the concept of the unconscious, have traditionally met with a certain resistance in Italian culture. Although Freud's work was embraced by Jewish intellectuals in Trieste before the war, and later even by an idealist like Croce as Jennifer Stone has noted, at the level of a broader (bourgeois or popular) discourse or practice psychoanalysis found primary opposition in the developments of philosophical positivism, and in the Church. (1) It would appear senseless to consider the peculiarity of the so-called analytic situation in Italy without at least noting its ambiguous relation with confession, for example. As a "Jewish" mode of confession, analysis reduces the speaker to a weak being before a castigating god; this leads not to redemption, but to a continual agitation, skepticism, abstraction. Even during the 1950s when the Church felt compelled to recognize the good works of Italian psychiatry (Italy has been in the forefront of social and institutional programs to treat the mentally ill), the Vatican insisted upon the juridical and moral priority of confession over the analyst-client privilege. (2) In addition to the peculiar influence of populist Catholic ideology, others factors shaping the historical antagonism toward Freudian thought in Italy include the political developments of Fascism, and the relatively retarded formation of the Italian bourgeoisie.
Categories of race or ethnicity, and in particular, the uncanny approximation of the fantasized figures of "black" and "Jew" have also contributed to a logics of opposition. In a practical sense, the racialization of psychoanalysis realizes itself most profoundly with the development of the Fascist racial laws in the 1930s. In fact, the Italian Society for Psychoanalysis, founded by Eduardo Weiss, was forced to disband in 1939. Yet at a more abstract level, psychoanalysis in Italy had long been nuanced by race thinking ("race thinking before racism," to borrow Hannah Arendt's terminology); by the deeply entrenched association of Freud with so-called Jewish prophetism, a mode of discourse that was believed to originate in the ancient cults of inferior castes, and in the pandemic and ecstatic forms of the "Southern races" (3) (figure 1). In its essence as a "Southern" science, psychoanalysis might be linked both with a form of demonic possession and an excessive obsession with the effects of such possession. Although many Ethiopians were Christians, racial literature attempted to create a sense of distance from Italy by focussing on demonism as a dominant force in Coptic religious sentiment (figure 2). In part, this "creation" of difference was to allow a space for missionary work to intercede with the indigenous population. Ironically, Mussolini's hierarchy drew on much older literature that understood Islam as the "rightful religion" of the region, to be defended against the heretical Copts. As in the construction of the unconscious as a radically differentiated space, the various maneuvers by racial "scientists" and ethnographers helped to produce accounts of racial inferiority and conflict among the various sub-groups in East Africa, but above all, to produce difference in the proper degree. We might here invoke Homi Bhaba's notion of the colonial encounter as one of mimicry in the psychoanalytic sense; not pure identification, but "a desire for a subject of difference that is almost the same, but not quite" (Bhabha 131).
Admittedly, it may be difficult to locate cultural associations between racial thinking and psychoanalysis in Italy in comparison with other nations in which racism and anti-Semitism have a richer and more institutionalized legislative history, just as it has always been difficult to penetrate a long-standing and reinforced cultural myth about the lack of inherent racism in Italian subjects. (4) Moreover, one might convincingly argue that given the circumscribed interest in Freud's "new science" among Italian intellectuals, race thinking in the broadest sense, does not exercise any particular influence on psychoanalysis. Yet analysis has also enjoyed a popular reception (often as a deterministic pseudo-science at odds with a dominant form of maternal knowledge and common sense psychology) and this popularization exerts a reciprocal influence on the construction of "high" discourse. Although the rejection or disenfranchisement of psychoanalytic theory is by no means universal in Italy, it may be possible to locate a culturally abject nucleus in the Freudian corpus that, like the unconscious itself, blocks a National Transference with the Father of the Discipline.
The conflation of "black" and "Jew" is fundamental in a wide variety of European racial literature beginning in the nineteenth century. Both races served as negative exemplars for non-Europeanism, non-Aryanism as both were invested with particular qualities within particular cultural contexts. Haile Selassie of Ethiopia was caricatured as a Jew, for example. In the 1930s, a crucial moment in the intersection of race thinking and the resistance to psychoanalysis, "black" and "Jew" were often conceived as synonymous with a so-called American mentality. The American/black/Jew might be designated as lazy, greedy, degenerate, and sickeningly porous. (5) Racial publications included photographs of blacks with captions suggesting that their very physiognomy revealed their pathological lack of aptitude for work (figure 3). This image emerges from a form of popular ethno-photo-journalism imported in its essence from Nazi Germany. Black/Jewish identity is fixed in an authoritative caption reading: "Two typical Americans," from the Fascist publication La difesa della razza. The various symptoms of the black/Jew are supposed to become suddenly and indelibly "visible" in the physiognomy of the individuals pictured. Ironically, however, America simultaneously served as the positive model for Fascist forms of rationalized productivity that help to speed up and modernize Italian workers. Ultimately, then, the only signifier generated by the combination of picture and word in the racial press is again that of (over-determined) difference tout court.
For an Italian public, whether they were reading material prepared by their own scientists or translated from a German context, the black/Jew was understood to occupy a charged and differentiated space that was both polluted and, paradoxically, immune, bracketed off from disease or contamination. This dual structure emerges with particular force in scientific literature on mental illness or degeneracy. The black/Jew was believed to suffer from a variety of psychical and physical ailments that marked him as different; yet he was marked also, precisely, for his "resistance" to illness, a condition that isolated him from the general population and aroused suspicion.
In the context of Fascist ideology, resistance is often a (masculine) defensive strategy. In an early justification of the Regime that appeared in the Freudian Rivista di psicologia, an Italian experimental psychologist mapped out a distinction between communist violence (a splitting or splintering of the state/body/ego, a dissolution), and fascist violence (an internal front of resistance). The terms would appear to be consistent with a general meta-psychological vocabulary. At the same time, however, "resistance" is employed in the Rivista article in an everyday sense where martial metaphors bleed into the lived practices of the body. (6) By stiffening itself against the onslaught of the red flood (to borrow Klaus Theweleit's term), the fascist body resists the diasporic, westward, palingenic wandering that is also encoded in the racial stereotypes of psychoanalysis as a Jewish (and black) science, born in the East and transmitted, like an illness, to the West.
As a metaphor illness often takes on the characteristics of a racial mutiny against the white body. A manual of Italian colonialist medicine explains: "It has been well known for a long time that the origin of infectious diseases may be attributed to contagion by inferior organisms that inhabit individuals like parasites"(Giordano 45). Moreover, Italy had to understood itself as a country particularly vulnerable to such contagion because of its many ports and the lack of a unified body to police them. Mussolini's bureaucracy offered the possibility of a national prophylaxis, as in 1929 protocols were finally established for verifying the sanitary conditions of boats calling in Italian ports. Nevertheless, fear of foreign disorder and penetration formed a crucial part of medical discourse on infectious diseases.
Racial literature often tended to posit the black/Jew as relatively insensitive compared with the white (a determination which accounts for the historical necessity of the black's subjugation to white races); yet, paradoxically, the black was understood to be highly receptive to diseases (against which the white tends to exhibit a high degree of resistance--a myth intrinsic to the rhetoric of medical pamphlets distributed to potential colonists). It is clear what such myths were able to accomplish from a cultural standpoint--they helped to naturalize white domination in part through supplanting "inferior" and superstitious modes of treatment with "superior" Italian (or more generally, Western) medical practices, as they served to encourage wary colonists to brave climactic and geographic hardships. (Such explanations do not, however, dispose of an essential duplicity within race-thinking.)
From a culturalist perspective, medical discourse that apparently reflects on race, may actually reflect on class within the Italian peninsula. A manual for colonists notes that the most important factor for good health in Africa is maintaining proper hygiene of the skin. "The bath, aside from representing an element of the greatest necessity for avoiding sweat and other products of cutaneous secretion, also serves to cool the body, granting a sense of well-being" (Giordano 37-38). The manual notes that ideally, one should change one's undergarments frequently--if possible after every sweat. It is clear that this level of hygiene was enjoyed by only the highest strata of Italian society back home, so the advice offered represents a cultural fantasy rather than a lived practice. Whites may not be suited to do any kind of physical labor in the colonies, and in any case, they should definitely avoid working with fires or cooking, the manual continues. Whites who undertake intellectual labor should dedicate themselves to several hours of activity per day in order to stay in good form and overcome the laziness that tends to overtake one in the colonies. Suggested activities include walks, golf, horseback riding, sailing and tennis. This text was published in 1930, at a period when few Italian homes had their own indoor baths, and in any case, frequency of bathing was perceived in direct proportion to class status. Moreover, the legislated break from manual labor, the suggested activities and the particular sports listed represent distinctly bourgeois living conditions, displaced, however, from an ideology of class to one of race. Medical discourse supports by other means the discourse of decrees such as one generated in 1935 that guaranteed economic unequality between blacks and whites in AOI by legislating that blacks must perform any manual task assigned to them. The question of forced labor remained vexed within the Fascist hierarchy, and a long-standing rhetoric of medicine and race served to bolster and legitimize incipient colonialist policies.
If the Italian worker could transform himself into a bourgeois, simply by moving "down there," he would also find his body transformed into a "white" body, a body capable of the "resistance" that holds a key place in the formation of bourgeois sexuality. The tropics were long associated with venereal diseases. Medical treatises suggested that colonists take precautions to ensure victims remain abstinent by keeping them busy with work, sports, and so on, "but for those who are unable to resist the priapism of those hot climates [terre ardenti], the easy love of those black Venuses, or the prostitutes of various races and nationalities from the cesspools of a thousand cities that come to invade the colonies, for those individuals we must provide instruction about how to avoid contagion by venereal diseases"(Giordano 115). Resistance appears ambiguous in this context, as in many of the texts analyzed by Klaus Theweleit where sexuality (coded as feminine) in general opposes itself to the masculine work of the state, and yet the very failure to resist also serves as an important alibi against homosexuality or impotence.
II. The Reception of Freud and the Unconscious
During the 30s, for obvious reasons, Italy experienced a cultural abjection of the body of Freud: the racial "other," the Austrian, the shaman of the unconscious (a realm of "blackness," "darkness," marked in the geography of the imagination, like Africa, as lying "down there" [laggiu]). In fact, during the Fascist ventennio, Freud was known primarily through a small number of highly reductive versions of his theories, in which his "obsessive concentration on sexuality," his "determinism" and "pessimism" marked him as the exemplary black/Jew. (7) The work of Sander Gilman, and most recently his book Freud, Race and Gender, treats the cultural association of degeneracy and disease with the "curative" techniques of psychoanalysis itself, encoded in the obsessive motif of the body of Freud the Jew. In turn, as Gilman has often observed, racial science tended to conflate the Jewish body with the black body. Although Gilman writes primarily about Germany and Austria (in relation to which Italy would figure as a "Southern" nation), the reception of Freud and psychoanalysis in Italy often paralleled the situation to the North, thanks to the popularity of authors like Otto Weininger, and to the positivist anthropological tradition exemplified by Lombroso, Menegazza and others. It is not so important, then, to distinguish the Italian racialization of psychoanalysis from German or more general European contexts, but rather, to examine how Italy's particular relation with the body of the racial other intersects with a broad and philosophical resistance to the very idea, the topology, the economy, of the unconscious.
To speak of a cultural resistance is, of course, to speak from within the discourse of psychoanalysis itself, to employ a term whose inevitability is always foreclosed by the very act of writing about the unconscious. Freud's defensive language in a wide variety of texts always already presupposes resistance; or better, resistance is inscribed within psychoanalysis as law. In specific terminology, resistance (Widerstand) pertains to the technologies invented by the analysts to obstruct access to the unconscious. As Laplanche and Pontalis suggest, resistance enters the vocabulary of Freudian psychoanalysis almost ab initio as a duality inasmuch as Freud's early methods imply an overcoming of his own patients' resistance (primarily through hypnotic suggestion) and an overcoming of resistance on the part of the medical and psychological community; resistance is thus incorporated into the fabric of analytic technique as an essential pull, a drive, that shapes the very morphology of the Freudian unconscious and of transference (Laplanche and Pontalis 394-97).
Resistance is obduration, a pull back, but it is also duration, defense, a barrier against the assault of exterior forces that assault the "healthy" ego in a meta-psychological sense. In resisting psychoanalysis at a cultural level, Italy would seem to attempt to maintain its ego against the "split" that is the troubling subject of Freud's last, unfinished essay; but Italy also resists a full transference and remains subjected to an interminable analysis in spite of itself. Freud's 1937 essay "Analysis Terminable and Interminable" might be read as a defense (a resistance) against resistance (a defense). Freud mediates between a broad cultural desire for an absolute cure, and the elastic realities of psychical makeup. At the outer limit of resistance lies a biological imperative:
We often have the impression that with the wish for a penis and the masculine protest we have penetrated through all the psychological strata and have reached bedrock, and that thus our activities are at an end. This is probably true, since for the psychical field, the biological field does in fact play the part of the underlying bedrock. The repudiation of femininity can be nothing else than a biological fact, a part of the great riddle of sex. It would be hard to say whether and when we have succeeded in mastering this factor in an analytic treatment. We can only console ourselves with the certainty that we have given the person analyzed every possible encouragement to reexamine and alter his attitude to it. (Freud, "Analysis Terminable and Interminable" 252-53)
Ironically, it is precisely a biological-positivist argument that serves to place a fantasized "Italian natural character" out of the reach of the very perturbations that psychoanalysis would cure (in an albeit circumscribed manner). Furthermore, the nationalization of the construct we will call "an Italian ego" in some way presupposes a bracketing off of issues of gender. Or rather, the "normal" ego of Fascist ideology, is precisely, a masculine ego, whose gender, however, is putatively shaped, not by any relation with childhood experiences of castration anxiety, but rather, by its affirmative response to a series of fascist appeals. A, precisely, psychoanalytic reading of the fascist subject, such as the complex (interminable?) analysis proposed by Klaus Theweleit in the two volumes of Male Fantasies, might indeed reveal the existence of the very perturbations that Italian anti-Freudians reject in theory. But for now, it is important to take Fascist discourse at its word, that is, as manifest content, and to understand how the gendering of the (pathological) subject in the passage cited above, already lies outside of the parameters of Fascist ideology, before we have even begun to examine questions of what it might mean for an individual analysis to be terminated. Fascism acknowledges sexual difference, or rather, female inferiority, as part of its groundwork. But difference--in the rhetoric of Fascism--is construed in absolutely categorical terms whereas in the passage above, difference emerges as a derivative from a fundamental experience centered around the phallus. In Fascist thought, resistance develops as a simultaneously masculine and national trait, while in Freudian thought, both males and females are capable of resistance in theoretically equal measures. Paradoxically, while Freud overtly acknowledges difference within the paradigms of resistance and transference, difference is neither quantitative (in temporal terms), nor does it alter the structural morphology of these phenomena.
III. The Nationalized Unconscious: A Case Study
In an article from the late 1920s outlining the most elementary differences between the conscious and the unconscious, the Italian Freudian Gian Carlo Ferrari focussed on a case study, the cause celebre of Canella/Sig. Bruneri. Both the medical case (Ferrari's article was published before the resolution of the judicial case) itself and the narrative in which it is inscribed by Ferrari for a specialized public of psychologists, are interesting inasmuch as they delimit the boundaries that shape the unconscious and the subterranean forces that make of it a simultaneously racialized and degenerate space.
During the late 20s, Ferrari recounts, a man was arrested for stealing a metal vase of flowers from a cemetery. He was brought to a Turin clinic, claiming to suffer from total amnesia. He was covered with minor scars, and, more importantly, his cranium appeared to have been shattered. After a prolonged treatment, doctors had not made any notable progress. The clinic decided to publish a photograph of the Gentleman-Without-Identity in La domenica del corriere under the rubric, "Chi l'ha visto?". (8) Within a short time, the doctors received a visit from a war widow, a Signora Canella, who insisted that the man in the grainy photograph bore an uncanny physical resemblance to her husband, Giulio Canella, a philosophy professor from Verona who had been missing in action for over a decade. In 1914, Professor Giulio Canella had married his first cousin Giulia (twin souls!), daughter of an aristrocrat with vast land holdings in South America. The couple had two children before the celebrated Professor was called to arms. He was last seen on November 25th, 1916 on a battle field on the Macedonian front, suffering from a grave head wound and apparently at the end of his life.
After witnessing an apparently joyful reunion between husband and wife, the Turin clinic dispatched the patient to his "good family." A few days later, however, the clinic received a second, equally certain response from Signora Bruneri, who recognized, in the photograph, her highly iniquitous and irregular husband, currently on the lam from a prison term. After a brief investigation, police, working with clinicians, officially recognized the amnesiac as Mario Martino Bruneri.
The Canella family--including various relatives who found themselves in agreement with the widow Canella--fully accepted "the patient" as their own kin. The fact that the nameless man's speech patterns and overall cultural preparation were highly inconsistent with the character of an erudite scholar, was apparently not problematic. As Ferrari suggests in his analysis, the entire family was fully persuaded by the unconscious desire of the widow to retrieve her dead husband. At the same time, however, the claims of the Bruneri family were much more objectively plausible. Clearly, this second case of recognition--the "conscious" case--corresponded to the concrete facts of an individual who had evaded a traditional family structure, a slippery con-man not unlike Thomas Mann's Felix Krull, whose very behavior calls into question middle-class values of stability, work, and social organization. As Ferrari suggests, then, the Canella family "sought, with the richness and minuteness of details, to push the nameless man toward a retrieval of his mnemonic patrimony, lost or buried in his unconscious" (Ferrari 39).
And in fact, the con-man was able to physically adapt to the collective unconscious wish of the Canella family, which corresponded to his (conscious) wish to assume a new identity in a new city. The case would seem to extend beyond a simple act of conscious trickery inasmuch as the nameless man had been in the clinic for over a year before the photographs were published, and had somehow been able to fool the clinicians into believing that he exhibited specific signs of psychopathological behavior. In fact, Ferrari believes that the patient actually suffered from symptoms of "receptivity," and "authentic passivity" that made him susceptible to the "suggestions" of the widow Canella. In the relation of suggestion, then, the con-man/patient assumed the position of femininity. The widow, in turn, was completely convinced that her husband was still alive and she managed to impose her conviction on the "porous" Bruneri. Dr. Ferrari uses the case as proof of the existence of the unconscious (with no mention of the preconscious which would certainly problematize his argument), which nevertheless, is only accessed through a feminized, pathological individual, an imbroglione whose social position lies outside of the world of normal, bourgeois relations.
Because the pictures and the facts of the case were widely published, a broad public consensus contributed to the buildup of the unconscious (mis)identification of Bruneri. Thus, although Ferrari, unlike his anti-Freudian contemporaries, does not deny the existence of the unconscious, through this particular case, he nevertheless redeems the "realm of darkness" to the degree that he makes of it the site of a healthy, culturally-sanctioned desire, the desire of a war widow to be reunited in a monogamous and "good" marriage. In fact, widows were one of the few groups of women granted extraordinary rights by Mussolini under the edicts which revoked female suffrage and severely limited women's employment. Fascism found, in the figure of the widow, the ideal embodiment of the "female masochist," and so, it is comprehensible that a broad cultural consensus might seek to reward the long-suffering Signora Canella in some material way. (9)
Ferrari ends his case study with the following observation: "And if we were able to laugh, in spite of the sadness of this case, we would like to point out the unwitting cooperation of so many layers of public opinion, which seem to demand a 'happy ending' to this drama. This is what happened, and what still does happen in the public sphere [arene popolari], and it is a small sign of the fundamental and ingenuous goodness our of public [popolo]" (Ferrari 14). What is interesting about this final attention to the "popularization" of the concept of the unconscious is the suggestion, however oblique, that fundamentally the Italian national character transcends the porousness of the pathological state narrated in this case study, and instead, through an imposition of its collective will (in the various "layers of public opinion"), pushes indefatigably toward a cooperative cure. In contrast to the pessimistic, tragic, self-defeating character assigned in popular literature to the Black/Jew, the Italian national character first expresses its unconscious in terms of a normalizing, "healthy" manifest content--the desire to reunite a woman with her long-lost soldier-husband--and then sutures up the very opening which allowed such an expression to show itself in the light of day. Here ends Ferrari's case study.
Several months after the legal identification of Mario Bruneri, Signora Canella continued to search for more definitive proof. She produced testimony by a functionary from the Italian mission in Berlin. The functionary recalled meeting a man in Germany who held a piece of paper bearing the words, "Italian prisoner, Captain Giulio Canella, amnesiac, to be returned to the Italian border." Nevertheless, a court of appeals in Turin confirmed the initial identification of Bruneri after several more months and the trickster was sentenced to two years in prison. After Bruneri was released from prison, he was met by Signora Canella, who stubbornly continued to recognize her husband. The couple left in 1933 for Rio de Janiero where they lived out their lives in marital serenity.
IV. The Racialized Cure: A Case Study
In the sanguine national popular culture described by Ferrari at the end of his article on the articulation of the unconscious, it might be possible to read a buried subtext in which the black/Jewish "other" is intrinsically associated with both pathology and cure. I would now like to examine a fantasy in which a female--again, an Italian widow--desires the diseased and curative other. Her desire--which, precisely, as desire must remained unfulfilled in the narrative I am about to invoke--is inscribed in a discourse of liberal tolerance.
A popular woman's novel of the 1930s called Sambadu by the prolific novelist who wrote under the pseudonym "Mura" recreates the analytic situation in an unexpected narrative context. The heroine, Silvia, living alone in a hotel approximately a year after the death of her husband, slips in the bathroom and suffers an immense, bloody wound. Her calls for help are answered by another hotel guest whom the woman has previously known only as "il negro." It turns out, however, that this negro, a Nigerian named Sambadu, speaks a highly articulate Italian and is a professional man: an engineer. This coincidence that Sambadu is entirely suitable in every way except for his blackness makes him the perfect stand-in for the analyst in this narrative.
As in Sander Gilman's reading of Freud's reception, the fact that the Black/Jew represents himself as a rational scientist is of the utmost importance. Gilman stresses Freud's "scientific gaze," particularly in Moses and Monotheism, as an alibi against his Jewish identity, and so against the potential racialization (and dismissal) of psychoanalysis itself. Without hesitation, Sambadu enters the hotel room of the widow Silvia and begins to clean the white woman's wound. "A more scrupulous medication is necessary," he says, "but I don't dare touch the wound with iodine: I don't think you would be able to resist the burning without screaming ..." Resistance, then, is used in the sense of a positive and willful defense against the invasion of the internal space, the dark space of the black/Jew, the unconscious. Having washed and dressed the wound with various handkerchiefs, Sambadu offers to sit by the bed of the white woman in silence. After a time, the following dialogue takes place:
Silvia: "I would like to make a confession.... A confession which might even disappoint you, but which is most sincere and which deserves your pardon precisely because it is uttered in all frankness. I have always been afraid of ...
Sambadu: "Go ahead and say it: of blacks."
Silvia: "Of Africans. I have never been close to one. I believed they were savages incapable of any form of civility: It seemed to me that they could not feel, reason, or live like we do: the difference of race, of language made them so strange that I thought I would not understand them even if they were to speak in Italian. Now I am amazed and even disturbed. All of my convictions have been shaken." (MURA 12-13)
In this brief exchange, Silvia's shift from a racial to an ethnic label is anything but casual. Her insistence on ethnicity as a category for cultural (in)tolerance, parallels the fascist privileging of Italian national character in the face of racial and regional diversity. Commonsense science of the 1930s tended to privilege ethnic categories over racial ones, inasmuch as racial science is based on quantitative factors or physically verifiable characteristics, such as cranial measurements, but does not embrace humanity as a totality. For the highly influential Italian philosopher Julius Evola, for example, psychoanalysis with its fascination for the "dark" "underside" of the psyche, splits the subject apart and shatters the totality, the tutto. Moreover, the Italian psychological community followed Otto Weininger in perpetuating the notion that Jews are racially heterogeneous but ethnically homogeneous. So, conversely, in aryanizing Italians, Fascist science insisted upon racial homogeneity in the face of "regional" (or what could be called "ethnic") difference.
Through the popular press, Italians came to be aware of regional, tribal, linguistic and cultural differences among Africans. Ethnic literature, while promoting a kind of appreciation and tolerance through the description of difference, often gave the sense of a fragmented and disorganized black social body. Such information served propagandistic purposes and performed utilitarian cultural work inasmuch as the chaos of Africa could be made to contrast sharply with nationalist and unifying rhetoric in Italy. Moreover, regardless of the level of interest aroused by ethnographic writing, Italian readers could comfort themselves with the knowledge that the Ethiopians were traditionally considered "the third race" after Caucasians and Mongoloids, the ur-African race. Indeed, Abyssinian means "mixture of various people." As cultural work, the fact that these "ur-people" came to live under Italian domination helped both to elevate the nobility of black Italian subjects in AOI above other Africans and, simultaneously, to solidify the crucial difference between black and white.
To return, then, to the "tolerant" Italian in Sambadu, as in the situation of Freudian analysis, the "patient" begins a process of transference through a confession that implicates the analyst himself. Silvia's desire for the analyst Sambadu creates a situation of social conflict that is only temporarily suspended when they are alone. And her desire is fed only by his distance from her, by the very "savage" qualities which she inscribes in his blackness, and which seem in absolute contradiction with his scientific gaze.
The morning following the initial meeting between the patient and the black/analyst, a white medical doctor comes to look at the widow Silvia's wound. The doctor is amused to find the exorbitant number of handkerchiefs which Sambadu had improvised in his excessive desire to provide aid to the ailing patient. "This is medication without economy, the medication of a savage ...," the white doctor laughs upon seeing the bandages. But as the doctor is about to tear off the bandages stuck to her skin, the patient stops him, fearfully exclaiming, "I would rather have you cut the handkerchief all around the wound, but leave the little piece of linen, until a new scab forms by itself" (20-21). Laughing, again, at the cowardice of his patient, the doctor imposes his superior, masterful wisdom.
In this novel, then, the analytic scene becomes a moment of encounter between the black/analyst with his excessive, uneconomical and savage methods of cure, and a female patient, a white widow with a gaping wound; but there is also a secondary encounter between the black doctor and the white doctor that parallels the resistance to psychoanalysis itself. With one painful tear, the white doctor would remove the bandages and re-open the wound so that it can be properly cleaned and healed with all due expediency. The analytic cure, on the other hand, requires a long process of continual "scab-formation," the building up of resistance over time, through successive encounters with the Black/Jew. Sambadu proposes marriage to Silvia; clearly, we learn, he loves not only Silvia as a totality but also as white woman. Nevertheless, at the end of the novel, the two will go their separate ways. Their union is unthinkable in Silvia's social circles. The lurid watercolor cover of the novel portrays a "resistant" Silvia with her arms crossed in a gesture of self-protection against the advances of the "Doctor" Sambadu, his chest naked, his head framed by the palm trees of "darkest" Africa (figure 4). The cure is cut off, as the narrative abruptly curtails the flow of desire that has filled the novel up to this point. To the degree that the pulp romance mirrors (female, masochistic) desire, the ending is of no particular consequence, since a constant level of stimulation has been maintained throughout the meat (the pulp) of the book. The stopping of the flow of this desire is inevitable in any experience of reading, so whether the relation ends in a conventional comic resolution (marriage) or simply fades out in cinematic fashion (as with the prudent departure of Sambadu from the bourgeois residence) bears little weight.
Sambadu represents "black medicine," a medicine based on superstition, that can only be guided toward positivism and rationality through the colonizing process. The Ethiopian will put up tremendous resistance to white medicine, one doctor from Genoa noted, and the only way to make a diagnosis is to send an indigenous worker to the patient's home to make inquiries. "They never tell you their symptoms because they believe it is improper to discuss certain matters with an outsider.... The patients themselves will tell you, 'You must do this or that,' and you must always pretend to agree with them, pretend to follow their orders; How many injections of distilled water I have had to give in order to keep them happy! What theatrics in order to find the right remedy! Every once in a while they ask to be released for four days in order to take the 'Abyssinian cure'; and you may as well appear enthusiastic; because if you contradict them they were certainly become stubborn; but if you give your approval, it is likely that out of laziness they will decide to forego the difficult journey in search of the witch doctor" (Besozzi 28). The doctor-patient relationship appears to mimic that between the analyst and analysand, in particular with regard to the temporal element. Another doctor who has been practicing "guerilla medicine" in Gore notes that his sister sent him a cutting from a chestnut tree of his native Liguria. "But I was mistaken once again. The chestnut grows too slowly; and it is most improbable that it will survive in this climate. It will die of consumption.... In short, it will never give us shade, not even in a hundred years." When the white "witch doctor" (he is called in these terms because, having set up a radiography room in the hospital, he performs "magic skeleton dances" for the people of Gore) comes to Africa, he gives up access to the latest technologies, the speeded-up course of European medicine. In recompense, he experiences the pleasure of the colonizer, the missionary, who overcomes added resistance to arrive at the cure. He can no longer wait for the chestnut tree to grow, he is beginning from the beginning, without the residual buildup of civilization. We can now see the chestnut tree as a metaphor for the problematic relation between time and a certain kind of cure. Analysis, it is clear, represents an "Eastern" mentality for a "backward" Italy that looks, during the 30s, toward the West for models of speed, modernization, and rationalization of production. In Fordism or Taylorism, for example, Italians found a theoretically desirable discourse that would, in every conceivable way, mitigate against the interminable "scab-formation" of psychoanalysis itself. If psychoanalysis is anti-productivity, anti-Fascist and anti-autarchic (as an import from "the East"), it can have no place in the national market of the New Roman Empire.
V. Self-Sameness of the Conscious and Unconscious
Let us now leave the Italy of heightened racial consciousness, the Italy of the African campaigns, and consider the more "whitened" period of de-colonization in the politically conservative years prior to the boom. (10) Psychoanalysis, while by no means popular, enjoys a discrete following among certain intellectuals. What will become of the unconscious, now that it can no longer be explicitly linked with "black medicine" or with a racialized logic; now that dreams of Africa have receded into a haze of nostalgia? The alterity of the unconscious has always been a key philosophical issue, and as we know, Freud himself wavered on the question of the "double inscription" of content, the status of the fractional bar that cordons off the realm "down there." A popular women's magazine of the 50s explains the workings of the "science" for its readers, under the presumption that they will not have first-hand experience (f.m.m. 20). The unconscious--indistinct in this popularized description from our own knowledge of its content--can be reduced to a set of repressed infantile memories. Although the act of bringing these memories to consciousness is difficult and encounters resistance, the trained psychoanalyst (of which there are admittedly few in Italy) may achieve aletheia, either by stimulating the patient to free association or by the exercise of certain techniques such as hypnosis or the administration of truth serum. While the model of the repressed memory does appear cohesive in the context of this brief article, the author slips almost imperceptibly from the model to a logic of the unconscious in which any content at all that is refused (negated) resides in a form that is apparently not subject to any mechanisms of condensation or distortion, but simply exists in actual form. A tinted photograph (figure 5) is used to illustrate the following scenario: "This girl loves a married man. Driven by her insane passion she decides to meet him at his home. She would rather not go and her innate honesty rebels, but in vain. She goes. On the way she is hit by an automobile and ends up in the hospital. According to psychoanalysis the girl was pushed toward the encounter with the automobile by her own unconscious [subcosciente], to 'prevent' her from consummating her sin. Since the unconscious acts without our knowledge, the girl will blame the driver in good faith." When we view the photograph that accompanies this explanatory piece, in which the unconscious is described as a kind of storage room for what is rejected by consciousness, we see in clear and melodramatic terms that the victim of this car accident, a modern girl potentially not unlike the readers of Grand Hotel, inevitably suffers the consequences of amorality. Although the girl will blame the driver "in good faith," the viewer cannot help but notice that her unconscious is showing.
The photograph reminds me of one of the episodes from the 1953 film Villa borghese during which a wealthy married woman arranges to meet her lover in the park in order to break off their relations. As she waits on a bench, the bourgeois neurotic reads a book on the unconscious in French and when the lover arrives, he suggests that her morose character has been influenced by psychoanalysis and the Freudian subconscious [sic!]. This pronouncement is accompanied by discordant music. After the lover abandons the woman, explaining that he has been meaning to inform her that he has decided to marry another, she mistakenly transfers her anger onto her son whom she slaps. While this gesture is "subconscious," it is also highly transparent, like the woman flung about by the passing car.
VI. Nostalgia for Difference
By conflating the ontology of the unconscious with access to its secrets, this Grand Hotel article implicitly upholds a logic of the "black" analyst who both performs and possesses this knowledge, who embraces both pathology and cure. Of course, this logic remains stripped of any explicit racial thinking. What is particularly interesting about the article--aside from its admission that Italy is indeed "behind" many other countries in its research in the field of psychoanalysis--is the fact that in this popular, reductive version of the psyche, the conceptual model used to describe the bringing to consciousness of unconscious content, and the conceptual model of retrieval of content stored in the conscious are the same. Both infantile (repressed) memories and adult (conscious) memories derive from real events such that the unconscious is separated by degrees but is not differential. No wonder the unconscious literally slips up!
Since the post-Fascist era, psychoanalysis and racial thinking have lost an essential connection. Freud's popularity waxes and wanes, and revivals of classic techniques are heralded (not just in Italy, of course) by the popular press, just as Freud is parodied in certain elements of popular culture. Whatever its status of the moment, analysis as it is now understood would seem to be divorced from questions of racial and national identity. Yet it is precisely because such connections remain embedded in older historical narratives about psychoanalysis that they deserve attention in the broader context of cultural studies. The very "whiteness" of analysis in the 1950s cartoon variant contains within it buried seeds of racial thinking that have become literally "blanked out." It is not my hope to "blacken" analysis, but rather, to suggest ways in which Italian culture has tended to push racial thinking to the margins when in fact it deeply conditions both theory and practice about Freud and post-Freudianism.
Although the case of Dr. Bruneri and the desires of the white widow Silvia belong to past history, they also reflect deeply entrenched narratives of resistance which are still played out in current cultural fantasies. Perhaps the end of psychoanalysis in Italy is eerily announced by the "Southern" and "black" figure of Armando Verdiglione who practiced Berlusconi style self-promotion as a so-called Lacanian analyst in the 1970s and early 1980s. Verdiglione's bizarre glitterato, showbiz, psycho-babble "analytic center" in Milan bears uncanny parallels to the media empire developed by the former Prime Minister of Italy. In Verdiglione's "analytic" situation, the resistance of the consumer is overcome by the promise of a hedonistic space; desire itself is interminable only because various "products" of psychoanalysis (glossy magazines, books, parties, conferences, meetings, sexual encounters, and so on) are both attractive and available, according to the logical fusion of psychoanalysis and capitalism. But like so many of Berlusconi's colleagues who operated under the apparent rules of late capitalism in Italy, Verdiglione now sits in a prison cell, waiting out a (terminable) sentence. The "sanguine national character" posited by the early Italian Freudian Ferrari as proof of the unconscious, and yet, paradoxically, as a form of resistance against the same, seems to have reached its apogee.
VII. Footnote on the Bruneri Case
In 1960, the Bruneri case was briefly reopened when a relative (by marriage) of the Canella family, travelled to Brazil and brought back new information to the Italian press. This relative had the complete confidence of the tenacious Signora Canella, who continued to maintain that the man from the Turin clinic was her missing husband, Professor Canella. As we recall, the couple had relocated to Rio during the early 30s, along with several children from the "first bed" of the marriage between Signora Canella and the undisputed Professor. During the period between 1933 and 1941, the man had subjected himself to hypnosis and other forms of "cure," to help him "reconstruct his personality" (Di Bello). In 1941, the amnesiac died, and was mourned in his obituary as Professor Giulio Canella, father of Rita and Giuseppe, and of Elisa, Camillo and Amalia, the latter three products of the "second marriage bed." Although her five children were not considered equal under Italian law, the widow Canella planned to leave her considerable estate to all five in equal parts.
Many Italians who had been alive during the 30s recalled the affair which had divided Italy. Just about the time that the Canella family member returned from Brazil, a judicial committee came into possession of five letters signed Mario Bruneri, in which the patient confessed to dissimulating his identity from the first moment he entered the psychological clinic. On the other hand, experts determined that the handwriting in the letters was clearly identical to that of the (late?) Prof. Canella.
At this time, the widow of the missing Signor Bruneri, also came forward to declare that she had received "money ... a lot of money" from the widow Canella to keep quiet about the true identity of the amnesiac in the Turin clinic. A subsequent telegram to a Veronese judicial committee from the widow Canella denied these payments in absolute terms. After so much time, it was difficult for anyone to recall who had financed the six trials, two of which were heard before the Chancellor's court, involving Bruneri. As in the case of Martin Guerre, "sanguine" public opinion pushed towards a happy resolution, in spite of a nagging intuition that the more distressing claims of the widow Bruneri appeared plausible. When the events the case were renarrated in 1960, in the context of the "boom," all sense of a space delimiting conscious and unconscious has been collapsed, and indeed, the mysterious patient has become a cipher, not for psychological or psychiatric disturbance, but for paternity and money.
University of Southern California
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List of Plates
Figure 1. "The Mulatto Is often Synonymous with Debauchery and Degeneration." "Possessed Woman." From La difesa della razza, Sept. 20, XVI, p. 31.
Figure 2. "Ethiopian Medicine: Legends Born among the People of 'Burned Faces.'" (Cover of a pamphlet that seems to embody a certain mode of association between "Jewish prophetism" and "black medicine.")
Figure 3 "'Black' and 'Jew': Two American Types." Reproduced from La difesa della razza (September 5, 1939): 7.
Figure 4. Cover of the novel Sambadu with a "resistant" white widow and black "analyst."
Figure 5. Melodramatic scene of the unconscious reproduced from f.m.m., "Che cos'e questa famosa psicanalisi?" Grand Hotel 490 (November 12, 1955): 20.
(1) Stone offers an excellent frame within which to understand the reception of analysis on the part of key intellectuals.
(2) For the papacy's position on this priority of confession, see n.a., "Morale e psicanalisi in un discorso del papa," Il messaggero di Roma (April 16, 1953): 1. A good overview of institutions can be found in Francesco De Peri.
(3) Giancarlo Petacchi, "Vita di pioneri," in Accerboni 297.
(4) For the question of this historical front of non-racism, see my Bodily Regimes, especially Chapter Two, "Selling the Black Body: Advertising and the African Campaigns."
(5) I use this term because of its uncanny appearance in a number of important German accounts of the Italian or Mediterranean quality for "absorption" of lived reality. See Walter Benjamin's use of the term in his essay, "Neapal" (314); and Kracauer 254-55 and passim.
(6) Vulterini wrote: "nella realta storica, il Fascismo non e che la continuazione dell'interventismo del 1914-15; sono gli stessi fasci di combattimento che, a guerra finita, contro il pericolo del dissolvimento interno si oganizzano a formare il fronte interno di resistenza" (177).
(7) For anti-Freudianism, see, for example: Giudetti; Bragaglia; Guerriero, "Il Dottor Freud"; Petrucci; Meldini.
(8) It is interesting to note that at the time of this writing, "Chi l'ha visto?" is also the title of an immensely popular weekly television program in Italy, modeled on, but rather different from "America's Most Wanted." The program "Chi l'ha visto?"--the subject of much debate among intellectuals--would appear to link up with our discussion in at least one fundamental respect: The producers travel, more often than not, to some provincial town, on the borders of Italy, to investigate unsolved cases of missing persons, mistaken identity, anonymous or seemingly haphazard criminal acts. It would seem that the mobile camera of "Chi l'ha visto?" offers the urban viewer, the viewer in the center, a "genuine" view of the margins of Italian culture, the "dark" "underside" of Italy. Something like a "national sub- [sic!] conscious."
(9) For rights extended to widows, see Chanese; de Grazia; and the pamphlet Che cosa e la carta del lavoro?
(10) For Italian-African relations in this period, see Del Boca.
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