Earth, Milky Way: punctum books, 2017. 494 pages. ISBN-13: 978-0-9985318-5-4. DOI: 10.21983/P3.0167.1.00. OPEN-ACCESS e-book + $27.00 in print: paperbound/5 X 8 in.

In this terrific book, the psychoanalysts and the queer theorists—who are sometimes the same person, but usually not—are less in “conversation” about sexuality than they are pondering whether they have the same desires for sexuality. Is it perverse enough, is it dirty enough, is it ecstatic enough? Is it available to be “used” to cure as well as to make shattering bearable; to imagine as well as to capture truth? There is a lot of talking across each other in this book—sexual difference takes shape so many ways, as does the relation between structures and norms. But if interdisciplinarity is rarely achieved, there is also a lot of generous listening and imagining on both sides, about what it would be like to want cure and care where the object sexuality and its subject are only ever provisionally stable. It’s thrilling and frustrating to read this, and I am so glad I did. It will be great for teaching.

~ Lauren Berlant, University of Chicago, author of Cruel Optimism, The Female Complaint, and Desire/Love

This great collection of essays fills an important gap in the often contested relationship between psychoanalysis and queer theory. Clinical cases presented here illustrate how people struggle with questions about their sexual identity and how troubles related to desire, drive and jouissance attest that there is something inherently queer in human sexuality as such. For the first time we have a volume which opens a dialogue between different psychoanalytic schools and its perceptions of sexual identity. This book is essential reading for anyone who is dealing with the riddle of sexual difference. And who isn’t!” 

~ Renata Salecl, professor of psychology and psychoanalysis at Birkbeck, University of London, and senior researcher in criminology at the Faculty of Law in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Her books include (Per)versions of Love and Hate (1998), On Anxiety (2004) and Tyranny of Choice (2010).

Given the centrality of sexuality to theories of psychoanalysis, it is striking how little it is actually taught in institutes. This unique and creatively organized book seeks to remedy this lack, by creating a layered dialogue between academics writing queer and sexuality theories, practicing clinicians, and psychoanalytic theorists. The chapters pull the reader into an exciting liminal space where cultural, societal, and clinical discourses intermingle, creating embodied experiences of gender, sexualities, and sex. As editors, Giffney and Watson curate an encounter between queer theorists, clinicians and psychoanalytic theorists. But the experience of the encounter includes the reader, who has the invaluable opportunity to be a fly on the wall as these cross-disciplininary conversations unfold chapter by chapter. Reading this book is not a passive experience but one requiring active participation in an examination of the ways cultural discourses of sexuality shape transferences and clinical engagement. Most exciting was the historical register, where established theorists glance back to their own individual romances with psychoanalysis, sharing their initial hopes for the radical potentials of clinical theory and practice to transform our experiences. This radical potential of psychoanalysis is rekindled through the layered dialogues and passionate encounters captured in Clinical Encounters in Sexuality.

~ Katie Gentile, Director, Gender Studies Program, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY and co-editor of Studies in Gender and Sexuality

No book in psychoanalysis could be more timely than Clinical Encounters in Sexuality. Here, psychoanalysis, often accused of heterosexism, is challenged to rethink its approach to sexualities. The accusation is justified, at least historically, and the responses here by leading analysts and theorists from a variety of orientations are as diverse as they are illuminating. There is the guilty-as-charged response which calls for a rethink of analytic concepts. There is the response that explores the tendencies in new discourses to idealise sexuality and ignore the crooked wood from which this most difficult of relationships is carved. The collection is very rich and raises the debate over the place of psychoanalysis in contemporary sexualities to a new level. The book is a must-read for anyone interested in psychoanalysis – clinicians and theorists alike

~ Russell Grigg, psychoanalyst in Melbourne, Australia and author of Lacan, Language, and Philosophy, and co-editor of Female Sexuality: The Early Psychoanalytic Controversies.

‘Rightly’, writes one of the psychoanalysts in this volume, ‘Queer Theory has not always been respectful of psychoanalysis, and it is laudable that a serious attempt to engage with psychoanalysis has been promoted’. This book arises from the recognition that each ‘partner’ to this engagement is itself based on encounters – the two-way event of the clinic and the multiple events of queer desire. It goes beyond both the couch and the bed. In its three sections, queer theorists present key concepts; clinicians respond; and ‘leading thinkers’ take an overview. The result is a fascinating patchwork of ideas which places reading upon reading. Tones of voice, levels of sympathy and understanding vary – this may be ‘a provocatively uneasy intimacy’ – but in the main this volume is indeed, as a third contributor notes, ‘a rich repertoire of possibilities for getting creative with the differences that divide and connect us'”

~ Naomi Segal, Birkbeck, University of London, author of Consensuality: Didier Anzieu, Gender and the Sense of Touch and translator of Didier Anzieu’s The Skin Ego

The relationship between psychoanalysis and sexuality has long been in need of a shake up. This remarkable collection of essays re-draws the lines of this encounter, offering provocative, exciting challenges to both its contributing authors and its readers. In a series of deft and insightful moves, Giffney and Watson have created a project that dares to speak to complexity by weaving together voices that utter the unexpected and harness experience to theory and practice. The result is often breathtaking, offering a compendium of personal, clinical and critical reflection that is both charged and compelling. The reader is invited in to grapple with the queer imperatives of the volume, so that the tapestry becomes ever more intricate. This is an important, passionate book, one that, by turns, tantalises and assuages as it interrogates the messy intimacies of multiple desire.

~ Caroline Bainbridge, University of Roehampton, author of A Feminine Cinematics and The Cinema of Lars von Trier, and Film Editor of The International Journal of Psychoanalysis

Psychoanalysis and queer theory have a special interest in sexuality but usually follow diverging paths in framing its importance for human subjectivity. This volume brings together key scholars from both disciplines and engenders a fruitful encounter, with clinical and theoretical papers, as well as reflective essays. Enthusiasts of queer theory or psychoanalysis will not only find advanced papers relating to their interest, but will also be drawn to explore up-to-date viewpoints in each discipline. Students and advanced scholars alike will appreciate these subtle discussions.

~ Stijn Vanheule, Ghent University, Belgium, author of Psychiatric Diagnosis Revisited: From DSM to Clinical Case Formulation, Diagnosis and the DSM: A Critical Review and The Subject of Psychosis: A Lacanian Perspective

Clinical Encounters in Sexuality: Psychoanalytic Practice and Queer Theory

Clinical Encounters in Sexuality makes an intervention into the fields of clinical psychoanalysis and sexuality studies, in an effort to think about a range of issues relating to sexuality from a clinical psychoanalytic perspective. This book concentrates on a number of concepts, namely identity, desire, pleasure, perversion, ethics and discourse. The editors, Noreen Giffney and Eve Watson, have chosen queer theory, a sub-field of sexuality studies, as an interlocutor for the clinical contributors, because it is at the forefront of theoretical considerations of sexuality, as well as being both reliant upon and suspicious of psychoanalysis as a clinical practice and discourse. The book brings together a number of psychoanalytic schools of thought and clinical approaches, which are sometimes at odds with one another and thus tend not to engage in dialogue about divisive theoretical concepts and matters of clinical technique. Traditions represented here include: Freudian, Kleinian, Independent, Lacanian, Jungian, and Relational. The volume also stages, for the first time, a sustained clinical psychoanalytic engagement with queer theory. By virtue of its editorial design, this book aims to foster a self-reflective attitude in clinical readers about sexuality which historically has tended toward reification. The central questions we present to readers to think about are:

  1. What are the discourses of sexuality underpinning psychoanalysis, and how do they impact on clinical practice?
  2. In what ways does sexuality get played out for, and between, the psychoanalytic practitioner and the patient?
  3. How do social, cultural and historical attitudes towards sexuality impact on the transference and countertransference, consciously and unconsciously?
  4. Why is sexuality so prone to reification?

Divided into three sections, Clinical Encounters in Sexuality begins with six chapters on important themes in queer theory: identity, desire, perversion, pleasure, discourse and ethics. Section two includes fourteen responses to the chapters in section one by practising psychoanalysts and psychoanalytic psychotherapists from a number of traditions. They work with adults and/or children and adolescents. Section three features seven short commentaries on the nature of the encounters enacted by the book, by leading thinkers whose own clinical practice and/or theoretical work engages directly with both discourses: psychoanalytic and queer. The book is edited by two psychoanalytic practitioners — one Kleinian, one Freudian-Lacanian — who also have research expertise in sexuality studies. All pieces are new and have been commissioned.


Introduction: Clinical Encounters in Sexuality: Psychoanalytic Practice and Queer Theory, by Noreen Giffney


Chapter 1 [Identity]: Precarious Sexualities: Queer Challenges to Psychoanalytic and Social Identity Categorisation, by Alice Kuzniar — Chapter 2 [Desire]: Are We Missing Something? Queer Desire, by Lara Farina — Chapter 3 [Pleasure]: Jouissance: The Gash of Bliss, by Kathryn Bond Stockton — Chapter 4 [Perversion]: Perversion and the Problem of Fluidity and Fixity, by Lisa Downing — Chapter 5 [Ethics]: Out of Line, On Hold: D.W. Winnicott’s Queer Sensibilities, by Michael D. Snediker — Chapter 6 [Discourse]: Discourse and the History of Sexuality, by Will Stockton


Chapter 7: On Not Thinking Straight: Comments on a Conceptual Marriage, by R.D. Hinshelwood — Chapter 8: Queer as a New Shelter from Castration, by Abe Geldhof and Paul Verhaeghe — Chapter 9: The Redress of Psychoanalysis, by Ann Murphy — Chapter 10: Queer Directions from Lacan, by Ian Parker — Chapter 11: Queer Theory Meets Jung, by Claudette Kulkarni — Chapter 12: Queer Troubles for Psychoanalysis, by Carol Owens — Chapter 13: Clinique, by Aranye Fradenburg — Chapter 14: From Tragic Fall to Programmatic Blueprint: ‘Behold this is Oedipus …’ by Olga Cox Cameron — Chapter 15: Enigmatic Sexuality, by Katrine Zeuthen and Judy Gammelgaard — Chapter 16: The Transforming Nexus: Psychoanalysis, Social Theory and Queer Childhood, by Ken Corbett — Chapter 17: Clinical Encounters: The Queer New Times, by Rob Weatherill — Chapter 18: Undoing Psychoanalysis: Towards a Clinical and Conceptual Metistopia, by Dany Nobus — Chapter 19: ‘You make me feel like a natural woman’: Thoughts on a Case of Transsexual Identity Formation and Queer Theory, by Ami Kaplan — Chapter 20: Sexual Difference: From Symptom to Sinthome, by Patricia Gherovici


Chapter 21: A Plague on Both Your Houses, by Stephen Frosh — Chapter 22: Something Amiss, by Jacqueline Rose — Chapter 23: Taking Shelter from Queer, by Tim Dean — Chapter 24: Courageous Drawings of Vigilant Ambiguities, by Noreen O’Connor — Chapter 25: Understanding Homophobia, by Mark J. Blechner — Chapter 26: Transgender and Psychoanalysis, by Susan Stryker — Chapter 27: The Psychoanalysis that Dare Not Speak Its Name, Ona Nierenberg

ABOUT THE COVER / On the Not-Meanings of Karla Black’s There Can Be No Arguments, by Medb Ruane

AFTERWORD, by Eve Watson

Cover Image // Karla Black, There Can Be No Arguments, 2011 / Polythene, plaster powder, powder paint, thread / 240 x 270 x 59 cm / Photo: Ruth Clark / Courtesy Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne, Germany

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