Professor Sally Alexander, Goldsmiths College, University of London, UK
Feminist history and the psyche
Women’s Liberation (wl) like all utopian movements, wanted change in the self as well as the outside world. Exploring sexual difference, female desire, the sources of violence – patriarchy's darker reaches – in small consciousness raising groups, wl’s signature practice, led some to read psychoanalysis, especially Freud, whose discovery of the unconscious had begun by listening to women. This paper will revisit that initial encounter to trace some of the trajectories of feminist history since the seventies.
Sally Alexander is Emerita Professor of Modern History at Goldsmiths UL. Her books include Becoming a Woman: and other essays in 19th and 20th century feminist history (London: Virago, 1994), and most recently, edited with Barbara Taylor, History and Psyche: Culture, Psychoanalysis and the Past (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). She was an organiser of the first national UK Women’s Liberation Movement conference held at Ruskin College, Oxford in 1970, and in 1976 was a Founding Editor of History Workshop Journal.
Dr Liz Frost, UWE Bristol, UK
Generational warfare: Baby boomers v the millennials
Another war is being constructed in the UK between generations, the like of which has not been seen since the 1960s. A version of older people is circulated in the media and politics that suggests ‘baby boomers’ are the ‘never had it so good generation’ who took everything, individually and collectively and squandered it on sex and drugs and rock n’ roll, and latterly, property and investments, whilst impoverishing the state with their free cradle–to-grave welfare and free educations and huge pensions. Now, because of these ‘wasters’, the story goes, young people cannot afford housing, must pay for university education and welfare services and, to add insult to injury, will have to pay for millions of older people who will become helpless, demented burdens, from their taxes.
The current generation, the Millennials, from their perspective, understand themselves to be hugely criticised as narcissistic ‘snowflakes’, obsessed with issues of recognition, easily bruised, unable to see past individuality and the politics of celebrity. Two camps are being designated, each constructed within the dubious, inflated rhetoric of the digital media. This is frightening. Hatred is fuelled thus: the 20th century offers many examples. The spirit of Paris ‘68 is nowhere to be seen.
In this presentation I will examine some of the sociological, psychoanalytical and psychosocial theories which may be helpful for unravelling this burgeoning conflict. I will consider social structural thinking in relation to the politics and power dynamics of ageism. Psychoanalytical theory also provides a rich seam of analysis, from work on splitting, on the affective landscape of envy, particularly, which may further drive these ‘camps’ to separate, and also the imperative of the totemic murder of ‘the father’ for every new generation to establish itself.
Traversing these disciplines, and frequently drawing on psychosocial approaches, several themes arise that seem to offer more insight into these extreme manifestations of age division. I will draw into the discussion ideas concerned with age and masks, and on the ageing body. I want to finish by thinking about whether generations should and must split, as certainly we tended to believe in 1968, and/or whether potentially transcendent commonalities, for example, the new and ageing Arcadians, or the broad church of Corbynistas, render the notion of generational antagonism redundant.
Dr Gail Lewis, Birkbeck, University of London, UK
Considering Black Feminism in times of love and hate
This paper will offer some thoughts about what kind of object Black Feminism is and how it might be used. It will attempt to craft a space between Fanon and Winnicott from which to read black feminism as a diasporic cultural, theoretical and political formation that brought into being a specific political subject and enables her going-on-being then and now.
Professor Barry Richards, Bournemouth University, UK
The Causes of Sanity
In this paper, Barry Richards will use the concept of societal containment to consider some of the social and cultural changes which began to take shape in the 1960s. Building on an argument in his book What Holds Us Together (Karnac, 2017), he will suggest that one antidote to today’s polarisations and fundamentalisms may lie in the repair of national identities and of the nation as an effective emotional container.
Barry Richards is Professor of Political Psychology at Bournemouth University, prior to which he was Professor of Human Relations at the University of East London. His other books include Images of Freud (Dent, 1989), Disciplines of Delight (Free Association Books, 1994), The Dynamics of Advertising (with I. MacRury & J. Botterill; Harwood Academic, 2000), Emotional Governance (Palgrave, 2007), and The Psychology of Politics (Routledge, forthcoming).
Professor Lynne Segal, University of London, UK
Utopian Yearnings, Always on the Move
It is often said that the twentieth century began with utopian dreaming and ended with nostalgia, as those alternative futures – socialist, feminist, or indeed even the possibilities for any radical change – seemed almost entirely discredited. However, it is never quite so straightforward. While dystopic visions predominate in the present, the challenge to envisage how to live differently, in ways that improve upon the present, never completely disappears. Nowhere has this been clearer than in recurring feminist dreams and dilemmas, attempting to reconcile the personal and the political by translating private experiences and desires into the public sphere of politics. Looking back, one thing that should at least be clear is that there is never any automatic accretion of improvement, but always the need to search out and nurture public spaces for progressive yearnings in every era. As I explore in Radical Happiness: Moments of Collective Joy, the collective resistance involved in the effort to promote new stories, with happier outcomes, is itself likely to prove joyful and empowering, at least while it lasts, even knowing that the goal of achieving that fairer, kinder and more peaceful world so many seek can never be said to have finally arrived.
Lynne Segal is Anniversary Professor of Psychology and Gender Studies at Birkbeck, University of London, in the department of Psychosocial Studies. She has written many books on feminism, gender and politics, including: Is the Future Female? Troubled Thoughts on Contemporary Feminism; Slow Motion: Changing Masculinities, Changing Men; Straight Sex: The Politics of Pleasure; Why Feminism? Gender, Psychology & Politics; Making Trouble: Life & Politics. Out of Time: The Pleasures & Perils of Ageing; Radical Happiness: Moments of Collective Joy.