Call for Papers: Psychoanalysis, Sexualities and Networked Media

23rd March 2019

Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society Special Issue: Psychoanalysis, Sexualities and Networked Media

Edited by Jacob Johanssen (CAMRI, University of Westminster, j.johanssen@westminster.ac.uk)

For psychoanalysis, sexuality, how it is both individually thought about and lived and how it is culturally constructed, is key to understanding both the human psyche and social change. Freud believed that the sexual behaviour of an individual, from the earliest stages of development onwards, provided key insights into how they related to others and themselves in life more generally. While Freud stressed that there is no ‘normal’ sexuality and heterosexuality was a myth, his particular theories of female sexuality were nonetheless critiqued by feminist thinkers. Initially for Freud, the symptom itself was a distorted or covered manifestation of sexual activity which related to conflicts. Those ideas were developed by post-Freudian psychoanalysts in numerous ways. It is psychoanalysis that fundamentally contributed to the theorisation and understanding of the role that sexual desires and fantasies play in our (un)conscious forms of relating to ourselves and others. While psychoanalytic schools have come to understand sexuality in different ways, other disciplines such as queer theory, cultural studies and philosophy have grappled with and drawn on those conceptualisations of sexuality. Particular notions that are often taken for granted in every day discourse – perversion, fetishism, voyeurism – were (and are) developed by psychoanalysts. The call for papers for a special issue of Psychoanalysis, Culture and Society takes psychoanalytic theories of sexuality / sexualities and how they were adapted/critiqued by other disciplines as a starting point for analysing contemporary networked media, online spaces and digital phenomena.

In the past two decades, the Internet and networked devices have not only transformed societies but also human agency and subjectivity. How we communicate and relate to others has been shaped by our engagement with and immersion in digital media, devices and platforms. Social media in particular can be seen as enablers of unprecedented levels of human communication and cooperation which result in a sense of recognition and security for individuals, at the same time users have become data points which are commodified, surveyed and tracked by companies, governments and other entities. Contemporary online communication is also often marked by strong levels of hatred, aggression and polarisation which are characterised by the symbolic, and sometimes physical, destruction of the other. This proposed special issue of Psychoanalysis, Culture and Society places a specific focus on sexualities in contemporary online spaces. Sexualities have become more flexible and fluid thanks to technology as they are facilitated through hook up apps like Tinder, or Grindr. In reproductive terms, devices connected to the Internet such as fertility and health check apps have also become available. The Internet facilitates an informative and pleasurable engagement with sexualities, be it through online content, or communities around sexual identities for example. Subjects reveal aspects about their sexualities online more than ever before. At the same time, much of mainstream pornography has been critiqued as depicting women as oppressed, sexualised objects aimed to satisfy a male gaze. Clinicians have also noted that pornography can impact young people’s sexual development in harmful ways. Perhaps somewhat related to the widespread engagement with some forms of pornography, women are discussed in certain online spaces (such as forums on Reddit or 4chan) in highly misogynistic terms. Such language is often inspired by right-wing discourse and imagery which has gained increasing visibility online. The #MeToo movement on the other hand has made use of social media for activist purposes in order to resist and expose the widespread sexual assault and harassment conducted by men. It has attracted criticism for some of the methods and narratives deployed which have led to false accusations for example.

It is safe to say that the representation of and engagement with sexualities has exploded due to digital technologies. There is scope to interpret such aspects in depth through psychoanalysis in combination with other approaches.

Possible topics include but are not limited to:

  • Psychoanalytic approaches to sexuality
  • Psychoanalysis and other conceptualisations of sexuality (e.g. Foucauldian, Deleuze-Guattarian, queer theoretical)
  • Clinical perspectives on sexuality and digital media
  • Repression and its status today
  • Pleasures, unpleasures – Eros and the death drive
  • #MeToo and activism against sexualised violence
  • The Alt-Right and online misogyny
  •  Online pornography
  • Livestreaming and camming
  • Hook-up apps
  • The Internet of Things (fertility devices, sex toys, sex robots, etc.)
  • Social media
  • Games and gaming cultures
  • Virtual reality and forms of simulation

Please send abstracts of no longer than 500 words to Jacob Johanssen (j.johanssen@westminster.ac.uk) by 09 September 2019. Accepted full papers will be due in February 2020. The special issue will be published in December 2020.

Article length: 6-8,000 words

About the journal

Psychoanalysis, Culture and Society is an international, peer-reviewed journal published by Palgrave (https://www.palgrave.com/gb/journal/41282). It explores the intersection between psychoanalysis and the social world. It is a journal of both clinical and academic relevance which publishes articles examining the roles that psychoanalysis can play in promoting and achieving progressive social change and social justice.

Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society benefits a worldwide community of psychoanalytically informed scholars in the social and political sciences, media, cultural and literary studies, as well as clinicians and practitioners who probe the relationship between the social and the psychic. It is the official journal of the Association for the Psychoanalysis of Culture & Society.

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