Gohar HomayounpourDoing Psychoanalysis in Tehran

MIT Press, 2012

by Anna Fishzon on December 19, 2014

Gohar Homayounpour

View on Amazon

In Doing Psychoanalysis in Tehran (MIT Press, 2012) — part memoir, part elegy, and part collection of clinical vignettes — Gohar Homayounpour takes a defiant position against the Orientalizing gaze of Western publishers, editors, and journalists who search in her book for the exotic Iranian subject and the trauma of the Eastern Other. She turns a critical eye on the expectation that she perform an unveiling and reveal knowledge about the Other’s otherness. Insisting that “pain is pain” everywhere and that the Other’s foreignness also resides in oneself, she instead talks about her own sense of dislocation and loss upon returning to Tehran to start a clinical practice after twenty years in the United States. Iranian patients face problems specific to their country’s politics and culture, to be sure, but for Homayounpour, experience in the consulting room confirms the universality of the Oedipus complex. In response to a colleague in Boston who questioned whether “Iranians can free associate,” Homayounpour quips that “they do nothing but, and that is their problem.” While in the United States neurotics are rumored to have disappeared from psychoanalytic couches, replaced by patients with supposedly more “primitive” narcissistic organization and borderline personality disorders, in Tehran, claims Homayounpour, consummately neurotic analysands dominate the clinical landscape, speaking constantly of sex, sexuality, and typically Oedipal conflicts. The resemblance of Iranian analysands to the patients of Freud’s Vienna has nothing to do with Eastern essence or backwardness, of course, and everything to do with collective fantasy, analytic training, cultural structures, and varying iterations of capitalism.

In the book as well as in our interview, Homayounpour’s poetics and politics brim with warmth and hospitality – not a humanitarian hospitality, or altruism, that too easily transforms into guilt and then sadism, she hastens to clarify, but one that emerges from gratitude and an ability to be with the other’s difference.


Jennifer KunstWisdom From the Couch: Knowing and Growing Yourself from the Inside Out

December 13, 2014

What happens when a Kleinian psychoanalyst wants to write an intelligent self-help book for the general reader?  First, she recognizes that one must have an online platform from which to launch, so she starts a blog called “The Headshrinker’s Guide to the Galaxy.“ Then she sets about writing her debut book, Wisdom From the Couch: [...]

Read the full article →

Bruce FinkAgainst Understanding: Volume 1: Commentary and Critique in a Lacanian Key

November 17, 2014

What can possibly be wrong with the process of understanding in psychoanalytic treatment?  Everything, according to Bruce Fink.  In Against Understanding. Volume 1: Commentary and Critique in a Lacanian Key (Routledge, 2014), he argues that since understanding is part of the Lacanian imaginary, it often leads to fixed assumptions and projections on the part of both analyst and analysand, [...]

Read the full article →

Sophia RichmanMended By the Muse: Creative Transformations of Trauma

October 21, 2014

In a wide ranging and courageous interview that touched on the creative process, personal history, memoir and self-disclosure, the psychoanalyst and writer Sophia Richman explored the connections between trauma and the creative process. Although many have written about the arts and psychoanalysis, utilizing contemporary relational thinking, Richman brings the discussion vividly into the present day. [...]

Read the full article →

Mark EpsteinThe Trauma of Everyday Life

October 13, 2014

Being human, much of our energy goes into resisting the basic mess of life, but messy it is nonetheless. The trick (as psychoanalysts know) is to embrace it all anyway.  “Trauma is an indivisible part of human existence. It takes many forms but spares no one,” so writes psychiatrist and practicing Buddhist Dr. Mark Epstein. [...]

Read the full article →

Thomas KohutA German Generation: An Experiential History of the Twentieth Century

October 6, 2014

Germans belonging to the generation born at the turn of the twentieth century endured staggering losses, many of which became difficult to mourn or even acknowledge: their parents in World War I, financial and physical security during the Weimar Republic, the racially pure utopian promise of the Third Reich, and likely several loved ones in [...]

Read the full article →

John FletcherFreud and the Scene of Trauma

September 29, 2014

Putting Freud’s books — not the man but the writings — on the couch, listening closely for the breaks, the retractions, the internal conflicts, the sudden about-faces. John Fletcher, professor of English literature, reads Freud very, very closely. When we view Freud’s work as an unfolding process, the main themes are often not even what [...]

Read the full article →

Mari RutiThe Call of Character: Living a Life Worth Living

September 21, 2014

Exploring everything from the impact of her own psychoanalysis on her mode and mien to the effect of consumer culture on the psyche, the delightful Mari Ruti keeps the ball rolling.  We pondered with her so many things that the interview feels like xmas morning! Traversing the advent of self-help books, Lacan, the Frankfurt School, [...]

Read the full article →

Elizabeth LunbeckThe Americanization of Narcissism

August 21, 2014

Elizabeth Lunbeck has made a major contribution to the historical study of psychoanalysis with the publication of The Americanization of Narcissism (Harvard University Press, 2014). Exploring the concept of narcissism and how it is deployed at the level of culture, she has produced a multi-textured book that is one part history of ideas, one part history of [...]

Read the full article →

Claudia LuizWhere’s My Sanity? Stories That Help

August 2, 2014

Join us for a maximum dopamine experience as Dr. Claudia Luiz discusses the making of her book Where’s My Sanity? Stories That Help, an everyman’s tour de force that’s poised to create a seismic shift in the cultural consciousness.  Psychoanalysis has been as yet unsuccessful in seducing the gentry that lying on the couch is [...]

Read the full article →