Vita

Christopher Chamberlin holds a PhD in ‘Culture and Theory’ from the University of California, Irvine with graduate emphases in Feminism and Critical Theory. From 2018 to 2020, he was the President’s Postdoctoral Fellow in English at the University of California, Berkeley. He currently serves as an editor for Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society and the European Journal of Psychoanalysis.

Chamberlin’s research engages black studies, critical and literary theory, and the history of science, among other fields. His current research explores the psychoanalytic clinic to redevelop it as a method of inquiry into the history and structure of antiblackness. This work relatedly examines dissident traditions of clinical thought — including black feminist, decolonial, trans*, and Marxist engagements with psychoanalysis — to critique the politics of psychiatry and mental illness.

His broader interests include the history and methods of the human sciences (particularly structuralism and mathematics), African American literature and theory, the historiography of slavery, democracy, and kinship studies. Chamberlin’s research has been published in Studies in Gender and Sexuality; Journal of Medical Humanities; Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society; Discourse: Journal for Theoretical Studies in Media and Culture; and Hypatia.

The Subject of Racism: Afterlives of Slavery in the Psychoanalytic Clinic
ICI Project 2020-22

The project develops a critique of the libidinal economy of antiblackness in light of the history of the clinical discourses on racism—from the denunciation of ‘negrophobia’ in 19th century abolitionist writing to the psychoanalysis of racial hatred in 20th century clinical literature. How does the analysis of the subject of the unconscious, as distinct from the subject of political representation, account for the morbid resilience of antiblackness? At its core, this project closely reads a heretofore-unexamined set of clinical case histories — published by Freudian practitioners during the American Civil Rights Era (1947–1971) — that sought (and invariably failed) to isolate the personal and political determinants of their patients’ violent attachments to racial blackness.

The Subject of Racism critiques the reduction of racism to an Oedipal structure and draws on feminist contributions to Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis, as well as interim developments in clinical methodology, to reinterpret the clinical literature and reanimate its insights. Going beyond the critique of identity politics, this project argues that the production and social organization of symptoms—the senseless and idiosyncratic ways that blackness is enjoyed—compels the libidinal investment in racial hierarchy. The jouissance of antiblackness constitutes a scandal to contemporary biopower.