To Live and Think Like Porcupines?
With Marcus Coelen, Jamieson Webster and Robert Maharajh
Drawing from experiences of work amid the COVID-19 pandemic, alongside medical care and psychoanalytic theory and practice, this conversation takes Sigmund Freud’s image of the “society of porcupines” as a way of considering how we can usefully and caringly come together.
- In English; Speech-to-text
The image of the “society of porcupines” was first used by Arthur Schopenhauer followed by Sigmund Freud. It suggests people shelter together from the cold, hurting each other with their spines, fleeing and therefore freezing, and so rushing back. A repetitive rhythm of love and hate is established, based on “needs” (warmth) and “trauma” from outside circumstances (people and their spines). Freud understood that the images he used to illustrate psychoanalysis were inadequate, including the porcupine image. It doesn’t capture the complexities of our “hate-and-love” relationships. Before knowing how to come together we must analyse what sets us apart; how we carry violent separation and passionate dislike. Drawing from experiences of work amid the COVID-19 pandemic, alongside medical care and psychoanalytic theory and practice, this conversation thinks past the porcupines.
Jamieson Webster is a psychoanalyst in private practice in New York. She is the author of Conversion Disorder: Listening to the Body in Psychoanalysis (Columbia, 2018) and The Life and Death of Psychoanalysis (Routledge, 2011). She writes regularly for The New York Review of Books and teaches at the New School for Social Research.
Marcus Coelen is a psychoanalyst based in Berlin and New York. He is a Professor at Columbia University in New York and Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. As co-editor of the series Neue Subjektile (Turia + Kant), he too is an author who has published work on Jacques Lacan, Sigmund Freud and Clarice Lispector.
Robert Maharajh (moderator) is Editor at Large of the Gropius Bau. He was co-founder and curator of the artist-run east London-based gallery T12 and commissioning editor for "Not Evenly Distributed", an online project reflecting on the themes of the 20th Biennale of Sydney.