Christopher Chamberlin is a theorist of psychoanalysis and the history of slavery, with an emphasis on contemporary black cultural studies. He is the Marie Skłodowska-Curie (MSCA) Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies at the University of Essex (funded by the UKRI) and is currently in formation as a Research Analyst at the Lacanian School of Psychoanalysis in California.
Chamberlin holds a Ph.D. in Culture and Theory from the University of California, Irvine with graduate emphases in Feminist and Critical Theory, and serves on the editorial boards of Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society and the European Journal of Psychoanalysis.
Affiliated Project 2022-2024
This project examines a transnational tradition of black psychoanalysts who retheorized the human subject through their clinical experience treating the psychic effects of political oppression. At its core, I examine the work of the French-Martinican psychiatrist and philosopher Frantz Fanon (1925-1961), African American psychoanalysts and activists William Grier (1926-2015) and Price Cobbs (1928-2015), and Haitian Canadian analyst and anthropologist Willy Apollon (1937- ). Unlike their Freudian and post-Freudian contemporaries, these analysts of the ‘antiracist clinic’ practiced in institutional settings – hospitals and community clinics – and advanced new metapsychologies by reconceptualizing the link between ‘madness’ (or psychosis) and the repression of blackness and femininity.
Accounting for Fanon’s, Grier’s & Cobbs’, and Apollon’s combined work not only fills crucial gaps in the history of psychiatry but advances contemporary critical and psychosocial theory: their analysis of ‘psychosomatic’ symptoms and ‘untreatable’ psychic structures displaces the foundations of Freudian social criticism, based as they are on the ‘normal’ neurotic’s conflicts with the cultural milieu. I argue that the antiracist clinic reinvents psychoanalysis — as both a theory and practice — by rethinking the social and historical determinants of psychic suffering (i.e., how mental illness is political) and by demonstrating how the structural nature of racial and gender violence requires ‘therapeutic’ interventions that go beyond the medical framework of ‘health’, ‘normality’, and the ‘individual’.
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.