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On the Radical Possibilities of Neutrality and Normativity

Daniel Polyak and Toni Hellmann (discussant)
Friday, December 14th, 2018
2:30 – 4:00 p.m.

40 West 13 Street, # 216
(Between 5th and 6th Avenues)
Handicap accessible facility

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A fundamental rule of psychoanalysis is for the analyst to facilitate a process that allows the analysand’s unique individuality to emerge and develop in the psychoanalytic situation. The clinical practice of psychoanalysis takes place in a social context, leading to the psychoanalytic situation and the analysand’s individuation being formed by and through norms. Polyak will think psychoanalytically about identity and power through the framework of normativity as it is developed in critical social thought. Despite the impact of normativity on the psychoanalytic situation, psychoanalysis in the U.S. predominantly approaches the normalizing processes that sustain social categories of status as secondary or unrelated to intrapsychic conflict. In this presentation, Polyak returns to the Freudian concept of neutrality in order to propose that the analytic stance of neutrality is integral to working with, through, and against normativity. The theoretical and clinical concept of neutrality allows the analyst to maintain the optimal critical distance and closeness to normativity. Through theoretical explication, clinical vignettes, and critical observations of psychoanalytic case material, Polyak will discuss how the analytic stance of neutrality is useful for working with the multiple dimensions of normativity. These dimensions include the recognition of norms as productive, useful for individuation, as well as regulatory and restrictive of subject formation.

Daniel Polyak is a lecturer in Women and Gender Studies at Hunter College. In addition to teaching at Hunter, he also works at Stella & Charles Guttman Community College. He is a psychoanalyst-in-training at NPAP. He also works collaboratively with parole-eligible people serving life sentences in NYS as they prepare for release. He has published on a range of topics including feminist epistemology, the intersections of queer theory and psychoanalytic practice, and the implications of psychoanalytic practice in a neoliberal context.

Toni Hellmann is a psychoanalyst/social worker in private practice in New York City. She is a co-founder of the Study Group on Race and Psychoanalysis at the William Allison White Institute, where she completed training in 2017.

Open to NPAP members and candidates at No Cost

RSVP: Registration form or call: 212.924.7440