Monash University

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The history of psychoanalysis in Australia.

posted on 2017-03-22, 01:46 authored by Ellingsen, Peter John
Rather than interrogated, as Freud suggested in the paper he sent to Sydney a century ago, psychoanalysis in Australia has largely been taken as a given. This has lent it an empty coherence that is suggestive of a lie: an "almost-ness" that sharpens the outline of truth. It is my thesis that, by failing to conceptualise what psychoanalysis is, analysts and those who historicised psychoanalysis have joined in a larger Australian indifference to subversive discourses of the self. In this work I explore the neglected topography of psychoanalysis as it intersects with the lie of the land - from Freud's mistaken assessment of aborigines as uncivilised, to the fantasy Australia had of Freud as an imagined visitor, and as an authority able to subdue the wilderness of the unconscious. Using the work of Jacques Lacan as a means to examine psychoanalytic orthodoxy in Australia, the thesis considers how the major psychoanalytic theories were configured or ignored, and what impact they had on intellectual and cultural life. I look at the way that the story of psychoanalysis has been told in the existing historical accounts, wondering why, if Freud's creation is, as some would contend, the grandest apparatus for the generation of knowledge-power, it was never fully critiqued by those who claimed to know about it in Australia.


Principal supervisor

Esther Faye

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Psychological Medicine

Campus location



Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Medicine Nursing and Health Sciences