20170206-Lau-Thesis.pdf (2.04 MB)
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Intimating the Unconscious: Politics, Psychoanalysis and Theology in Malaysia

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posted on 13.02.2017, 22:56 authored by Alwyn Lau Wing Wang
This work offers a three-act reading of socio-political discourse in Malaysia through the lens of psychoanalytical theory with a view towards constructing a Christian political theology of forgiveness. The first act, ‘Diagnosis’, (chapters 1 and 2) briefly introduces Christianity in Malaysia and critiques the forms of political theology propagated by Christian leaders and theologians in the country. I claim that Christians are over-reliant on a rational-liberal model of political engagement which ignores the dimension of the unconscious. I then argue for the political significance of psychoanalysis vis-a-vis competing critical theories, particularly the work of Slavoj Žižek. It also examines recent Malaysian events and personalities in the light of Žižekian theory, mapping the psychological disorders of neurosis, psychosis and perversion on to the nation’s political landscape. The second act, ‘Prognosis’, (chapters 3 and 4) interrogates the problem of ethnicity in Malaysia, arguing for a conceptualisation of ethnicity via trauma. It then demonstrates how the political superego sutures Malaysian politics, especially the practices of the ruling regime. I proffer the idea of feminine jouissance – the uncanny libidinal modality of pain-in-pleasure - as a factor to revitalise political engagement in the nation, as best exemplified by Bersih (the Coalition for Clean Elections). The final act, ‘Cure’ (chapters 5 and 6) begins with an examination of two popular schools of political theologies and includes a reading of the atonement based on the Žižekian idea of traversing the fantasy in which a diabolical system is destroyed (paradoxically) via a full identification with it. This work concludes by arguing that the church in Malaysia requires a reimagining of political theology with enemy-loving and cheek-turning reconciliation and forgiveness at its core. I claim that the church must recover a political posture of unconditionally forgiving her enemies; it is only thus that the Malaysian church best engages her nation with a love which systematically transforms.


Principal supervisor

Sharon Bong

Additional supervisor 1

Chong Eu Choong

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

School of Arts and Social Sciences (Monash University Malaysia)


Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type


Campus location



Faculty of Arts

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