Psychoanalysis and Phenomenology


  • Thomas J. Csordas


If psychoanalysis and phenomenology are thoroughgoing, comprehensive, and complementary accounts of subjectivity, anthropological analyses of subjectivity can benefit from them both as well as from the dialogue between them. In the first part of this article I present and elaborate a preliminary outline of conceptual correspondences between phenomenology and psychoanalysis. These are pairs of ideas that seem intuitively to “go together” on either a parallel level of analysis or in terms of the role they play within the broader intellectual movement. In the second part I call attention to a preexisting body of work that explores the relation between psychoanalysis and phenomenology. This is work in phenomenological or existential psychiatry that developed sometimes as a synthesis of the two fields, and sometimes as a critique of and alternative to psychoanalysis. I conclude by suggesting that anthropology is a field sufficiently fertile for such a cross-pollinated mode of thinking to take root. [anthropology, subjectivity, psychoanalysis, phenomenology]