News – May 2012
- May began with the sad news of the death of Jean Laplanche, one of Lacan’s former pupils and a great psychoanalyst in his own right. He is perhaps best known as co-author with J.-B. Pontalis of the monumental The Language of Psychoanalysis, one of the must-have reference works in the psychoanalytical canon. There have been plenty of obituaries written since his passing on 6th May, a collection of which are available on this site here.
- April saw the meeting of the VIIIth Congress of the World Association of Psychoanalysis (known in French as the AMP – Association mondiale de psychanalyse) in Buenos Aires. Many of the texts from the Congress are now available in English on the AMP’s site here. In addition, Lacan.com is now hosting video of the concluding remarks of Jacques-Alain Miller, introducing the theme of the next Congress, ‘The Real in the 21st Century’. You can find a transcript in English on Lacan.com here.
- As the autism debate continues in France, L’Express provides the latest twist in the saga. Under the headline ‘When a psychoanalyst holds mothers responsible for autism’ it hosts what it claims is unreleased footage from Sophie Robert’s embargoed documentary Le Mur, which caused uproar in analytic circles when it was released. In an off-camera exchange, Lacanian psychoanalyst Esthela Solano-Suarez talks to Robert about the . Whilst nothing of what she says will appear surprising to those familiar with Lacanian thinking on the topic of autism, a transcripts and video of the encounter are available on the L’Express site here.
- Amongst all the sound and fury about autism it is important to reference the published views of the Lacanian community about how it should be conceived and treated. Until now, perhaps the most succinct outline of this has been provided by the New Lacanian School in its short statement, ‘Autism: Our convictions‘. But earlier this month two new pieces were published by prominent Lacanians. Firstly, Eric Laurent’s piece ‘Research and Punish: Ethics Today’ was first published in French in April and is now available in English translation, thanks to Florencia Fernandez Coria Shanahan and Adrian Price, here. Kaële Magazine in France published an interesting interview with Lacanian psychoanalyst Philippe Michel in which he gave his own views on the topic. Reproduced in French in Lacan Quotiden, a translation of this short interview into English is below:
“Philippe Michel, psychoanalyst in Annecy and Annemasse, member of the Ecole de la Cause Freudienne and the ACF Rhone-Alpes, defends the care of autistic children and adults through psychoanalysis and explains the reasons for it.
Kaële: How is psychoanalysis practiced with autistic children?
Philippe Michel: Psychoanalysts have worked with autistic children since the 60s and 70s. It is not just about understanding the speech of the autistic child,, since it is exactly this that the child defends itself against. The question is to know how to enter into communication with him. Psychoanalysts have discovered that very often the child had an ‘autistic object’ which he keeps with him at all times, an object invented to product himself from the world that he is afraid of. We do not tell the child what is good for him, but we start from this object, its discovery, in order to advance. Sometimes a single word is pronounced and that is enough to allow us to start the work, step by step, which the child, accompanying him. It is not about leaving the child alone with his stereotypes [stéréotypies], his echolalia and his repetitions, but to see them as a first treatment elaborated by the infant to defend itself, and to introduce there in the discrete presence of new elements which are going to “complexify” the world of autism.
K: How do you respond to the parents who are unsure about those who “await the emergence of desire”?
PM: This is a caricature of the psychoanalyst that we hear like a slogan in the mouths of some and in certain newspapers. Evidently, it is not about waiting for it to emerge, but to promote speech, an enigmatic speech, gagged, symptomatic. In order that he who suffers in his body can reappropriate his suffering and find another way to say it. An autistic is someone who is enclosed in his own world, who does not want to address himself to the other. What we call today “the spectre of autism” shows children who talk, others not. There are even autistics who talk at a high level (cf. Asperger’s syndrome , of the ‘rain man’ type). But they talk in a way such that very often they take everything at face value [ils prennent tout au pied de la letter].
K: Could there not be there a point of convergence between the different approaches to autistic care?
PM: That would be desirable. Freud had been the revolutionary one that gave speech to the sick, in contrast to those who knew, it is something that we have never forgiven psychoanalysis for.
K: What is wrong with the ABA method [Applied Behaviour Analysis]?
PM: Its authoritarianism and the fact that it proclaims itself as being the only valid treatment for autism. Analytic action keeps its distance from ideals of normalization or of normalities [which are] incompatible in our view with suffering subjects. We do not challenge the learning programmes [les dispositifs d’apprentissage]. The practitioners that we have come across privilege educative and pedagogic approaches which are able to adapt themselves to social and cognitive singularities of autistic children. On the other hand, we are absolutely against intensive learning methods [les méthodes d’apprentissage intensif] which reduce the subject to a mechanic.”