NW 21: To Deal or Not to Deal with Uncertainty

NW 21 Education and Psychoanalysis

To Deal or Not to Deal with Uncertainty

ECER theme is ‘Education in an Age of Uncertainty: memory and hope for the future’. Since Freud, ‘Uncertainty’, ‘Memory’, ‘Hope’ and ‘Future’ are concepts explored in many directions. These questions need to be revisited today within the field of education. Which uncertainty are we talking about when we refer to psychoanalysis? Does it relate only to the historical social context of the time and how does it echoes an uncertainty based in the Interplay of outer experience and inner world? Uncertainties appear in all pedagogical institutions, which cannot be understood without reference to the unconscious movements at stake.

The Call
Since Freud, uncertainty has been inherent in the relationships between education and psychoanalysis: ‘[…] education has to find its way between the Scylla of non-interference and the Charybdis of frustration. Unless this problem is entirely insoluble, an optimum must be discovered which will enable education to achieve the most and damage the least’ (Freud, 1933).

Later, Winnicott proposed the concept of the area of illusion, an area where the uncertainty of the boundaries between I and the other is inherent to the emergence of play and creativity. From a philosophical and pedagogical perspective, these boundaries are in question; digitalisation and especially social media can contribute to the supposed disappearance of the Other (Han, 2017), and question our ever-changing bio-digital dimension as humans.  All the more the ‘real’ generative others, e.g. teachers, educators and counsellors, are called upon to be available as holding and imposing others. 

Isn’t it also true that there has been uncertainty about the link between education and psychoanalysis since Freud and the first psychoanalytic educators (Pfister, Aichhorn, Bernfeld, Anna Freud, etc.)? The uncertainty about these links has a history. For the future, it is not a question of deciding the debates again, but of knowing them in order to better identify the way in which lines of separation, sometimes fractures (cleavages?) still play out today as soon as they arise. The psychoanalytic-pedagogical discourse therefore includes, among other things, the question of how much abstinence is possible in the educational setting and how much involvement is, as it were, indispensable (Dörr, 2017).

For Janine Puget, an Argentinian psychoanalyst, our lives are ruled by the ‘principle of uncertainty [...] which includes the unpredictable as well as the predictable’ (2020). This principle, which marks out educational links insofar as every encounter remains unpredictable, has now become a major feature of our times. So we have to deal with the lack of certainty: all our knowledge can hardly avoid this uncertainty, which causes anxiety for everyone – children, adolescents and adults. Isn’t learning to live with uncertainty one of the challenges of education today, both for professionals and for students?

The proposed communications could be done from several perspectives: theoretical reflections on the possible links today between education and psychoanalysis; presentations focusing on the question of how to deal with uncertainty in research and teaching; the future of the relationship of education and psychoanalysis itself and therefore of the contributions it potentially brings to both practical and theoretical fields. For example, symposia bringing together several national understandings could be constructed to put to work this concept of uncertainty regarding the use of psychoanalysis in the field of education.

The presentation formats in Network 21 can be: Posters, Papers, Long papers, Symposia, Workshops (we invite researchers wishing to offer the experience of a clinical device – for instance, a case study or work on research material – to propose a workshop).

Contact Person(s)
Arnaud Dubois - arnaud.dubois@univ-rouen.fr
Patrick Geffard - patrick.geffard(at)univ-paris8.fr

Dörr, M. (2017). Verwickelte Abstinenz. In B. Rauh (Hg.). Abstinenz und Verwicklung (p. 25-42). Budrich.

Han, B.-C. (2017). The agony of Eros. The MIT Press.

Freud, S. (1933). Lecture XXXIV. Explanations, Applications and Orientations. In New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis (p. 135-157). The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Hogarth Press.

Puget, J. (2020). How difficult it is to think about uncertainty and perplexity. The International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 101, 1236-1247.

Borgogno, F. A. (2014). “Work in Progress” Between Past, Present and Future: The Dream in/of Sándor Ferenczi. Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 34, 80-97.

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