African American identity is racialized. And this racialized identity has animated and shaped political resistance to racism. Hidden, though, are the psychological implications of rooting identity in race, especially because American history is inseparable from the trauma of slavery.
In Trauma and Race author Sheldon George begins with the fact that African American racial identity is shaped by factors both historical and psychical. Employing the work of Jacques Lacan, George demonstrates how slavery is a psychic event repeated through the agencies of racism and inscribed in racial identity itself. The trauma of this past confronts the psychic lack that African American racial identity both conceals and traumatically unveils for the African American subject.
Trauma and Race investigates the vexed, ambivalent attachment of African Americans to their racial identity, exploring the ways in which such attachment is driven by traumatic, psychical urgencies that often compound or even exceed the political exigencies called forth by racism.
Introduction: Race Today, or Alterity and Jouissance
1. Race and Slavery: Theorizing Agencies beyond the Symbolic
2. Conserving Race, Conserving Trauma: The Legacy of W. E. B. Du Bois
3. Approaching the Thing of Slavery: Toni Morrison’s Beloved
4. The Oedipal Complex and the Mythic Structure of Race: Ellison’s Juneteenth and Invisible Man
Conclusion: Beyond Race, or The Exaltation of Personality
Trauma and Race presents a compelling and original approach to race that confronts head-on the seemingly intractable attachment of identity to race in America. Through fresh and innovative readings, Sheldon George shows how classic African American texts like Morrison’s Beloved and Ellison’s Invisible Man can suggest new and revitalizing sources for African American identities. With admirable clarity and persuasive force, George uses Lacanian psychoanalytic concepts to offer a new perspective on race that will surely excite debate and reorient discussions about race in America.~Jean Wyatt, author of Risking Difference: Identification, Race and Community in Contemporary Fiction and Feminism
With well-grounded roots in Lacanian psychoanalytic theory, Sheldon George reveals the real trauma of slavery in the United States. This is a masterly work of analysis that makes an important contribution to the emerging discussion around slavery and trauma.~Ron Eyerman, Professor of Sociology, Yale University
The most important book on psychoanalysis and race in the twenty-first century, Sheldon George’s Trauma and Race makes the crucial argument that only a Lacanian theory of enjoyment, or jouissance, can help us understand the excesses of racist bigotry and violence.~Clint Burnham, Professor of English, Simon Fraser University and co-editor of Lacan and the Environment
Trauma and Race has changed the landscape of thinking about racism. By understanding the psychic dynamics underlying racist structures, Sheldon George has propelled the analysis of racism into uncharted territory. All of a sudden, factors in racism that were formerly obscure become perfectly clear, and the most senseless acts of racist violence become comprehensible in terms of the psychic forces driving them. It's an epochal book that no thinking person can afford to ignore.~Todd McGowan, author of Capitalism and Desire
Sheldon George has written a book of readable Lacanian complexity, a text that can be read as an elegant illustration of Lacanian theory. At the same time, the book illuminates the enormous complexity of living, being, thinking, speaking and existing with others in race.~Angie Voela, Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society
Trauma and Race offers a ground-breaking intervention into how the fantasy of race consolidates racist logic. George issues an urgent and eloquent proposition for how embracing race’s structuring negativity not only impedes the hold of racist structures but also unlocks a potential space of freedom for the subject.~Jennifer Friedlander, Edgar E. and Elizabeth S. Pankey Professor of Media Studies, Pomona College and author of Real Deceptions: The Contemporary Reinvention of Realism
Sheldon George has done valuable work that lays a foundation for psychoanalysts to theorize racial injustice and to assist in constructing a counternarrative that can contribute to pushing back against the resurgence of White supremacy as a master signifier in the United States today. It is urgent work to which psychoanalysts should be prepared to contribute.~Michael O'Loughlin, Psychoanalytic Psychology