Freud, the Global Sexual Scientist

Monday, January 5, 2015: 8:30 AM
Sutton Center (New York Hilton)
Veronika Fuechtner, Dartmouth College
As his theory evolved, Freud came to describe himself as the founder of psychoanalysis, and today, this is the dominant framework within which his work is read.  However, well into the 1940s, his early works were widely understood as contributing to sexual science, which emerged simultaneously and in close personal and intellectual connection with psychoanalysis.  Psychiatrists, criminologists, eugenicists and sexual scientists worldwide discussed especially Freud’s Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905) to position themselves in the field of sexology, to ground or distinguish their theories on masculinity, femininity and homosexuality, or to develop sexological guidelines for criminal expert statements. 

    Freud’s early work reflects his intensive dialogue with sexual science in Germany and Austria.  But as his focus shifted away from the analysis of sexual fantasy as evidence of traceable life experiences towards the analysis of sexual fantasy as an expression of the workings of the unconscious, Freud took great care to delineate psychoanalysis from sexual science.  This epistemic shift did not necessarily translate, even into German-language based sexual science.

      This paper will discuss several readings of Freudian theory on sexuality outside of Western Europe (Japan, India, Brazil/Mexico and Palestine).  It will analyze the ways in which Freud’s theory became a commodity of a globally circulating sexual science and which aspects of his sexual theory had an especially powerful afterlife (e.g., the assumption of a universal psychological bisexuality and its distinction from physiological sexual traits).  Ultimately, this paper will map the discussion of the relationship between psychoanalysis and sexology, which is usually limited to the European and North-American context, onto a global scale.

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