Decolonizing Psychoanalysis: Fanon in Palestine

January 28, 2020

Stephen Sheehi, Lara Sheehi, Samir Gandesha, & Rawia Inaim

Tuesday, January 28, 6:00PM–8:00PM, Room 7000, SFU Harbour Centre

Co-sponsored by SFU's Institute for the Humanities, Independent Jewish Voices, South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy (SANSAD), SFU's Centre for Comparative Muslim Studies, UBC's Social Justice Institute, UBC's A/C/T Research Network,  & SFU's Vancity Office for Community Engagement

Part of the Polis and Psyche Lecture Series

Stephen Sheehi, "The Settler's Town is a Strongly Built Town: Fanon in Palestine"

Against the backdrop of the affective effect of reading Fanon in occupied Palestine, Sheehi explores the ability and limitations of psychoanalysis to make visible the ways in which Palestinian selfhood struggles under Israel’s suffocating regime of occupation and settler colonialism. In thinking about suicide of Gaza, then, this presentation distinguishes how the “ideological misattunement” of a liberal and/or Orientalist psychoanalytic (mis) reading of Palestinian mental health perpetuates particular colonial effects of the Israeli occupation. In doing so, Sheehi mobilizes the tools and insights of psychoanalysis  that Fanon provides us in service of the colonized without reinscribing the normativity of a colonial ego-ideal.

Lara Sheehi, “Toward a Decolonial Clinical Praxis: A Case Example from Palestine”

Dr. Sheehi's (she/her/hers) talk will examine the ideological basis of current trauma work when practiced through a Eurocentric lens. More specifically, she will focus on the shortcomings of current clinical theories and practices, with particular focus on the ways in which they may singularly focus on “point in time” trauma, versus ongoing, complex trauma—what some Palestinian clinicians have discussed as “continuous traumatic stress disorder”. Attention will be given to the ways in which sociopolitical processes and systems have created sometimes intangible stressors on individuals and collectives who are exposed to continuous trauma, especially those who are indigenous and/or with multiple minority identities. Dr. Sheehi will discuss basic assumptions of the field, and will advocate for an ideological shift that has potential to create more attuned care for families and individuals in the context of the present-day sociopolitical context. A case example from Palestine will be used to explicate the ideological shift and provide experiential texture to the discussion.


Prof Stephen Sheehi is Sultan Qaboos Eminent Professor of Middle East Studies and Founding Director of the Decolonizing Humanities Project at the College of William and Mary. He is the co-author with Lara Sheehi of Psychoanalysis Under Occupation: Theory and Practice in Palestine (forthcoming, Routledge). He is also the author of Arab Imago: A Social History of Photographic Portrait 1860-1910 (Princeton, 2016), Islamophobia: The Ideological Campaign against Islam (Clarity, 2011), and Foundations of Modern Arab Identity (Florida, 2006) as well as co-author with Salim Tamari and Issam Nassar of Camera Palaestina: Photography and Displaced Histories of Palestine (forthcoming, University of California

Lara Sheehi is a faculty member at the GWU Professional Psychology Program. Her work is on decolonial struggles as well as power, race, class and gender constructs and dynamics within Psychoanalysis. She has an upcoming co-authored book with Stephen Sheehi, Psychoanalysis Under Occupation: Theory and Practice in Palestine (Routledge), and her most recent chapter, "The Islamophobic Normative Unconscious: Psychoanalytic Considerations" can be found in Islamophobia and Psychiatry: Recognition, Prevention, and Treatment. Lara is the Secretary of the Society for Psychoanalysis and Psychoanalytic Psychology (Div. 39 of the APA) and the Chair of the American Psychoanalytic Association's Teachers' Academy. She is on the editorial board for the Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association (JAPA), Psychoanalysis, Culture and Society (PCS), and Institutionalized Children Explorations and Beyond, and is on the advisory board to the USA-Palestine Mental Health Network and Psychoanalysis for Pride.


Samir Gandesha has been a post-doctoral fellow at the University of California at Berkeley (1995-97) and an Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellow at the Universität Potsdam (2001-2002). He is currently Associate Professor in the Department of the Humanities and the Director of the Institute for the Humanities at Simon Fraser University. He specializes in modern European thought and culture, with a particular emphasis on the 19th and 20th centuries.

Rawia Inaim is a Palestinian-Canadian Master’s student in the Department of English at Simon Fraser University, and a member of the Vancouver-based Lacan Salon. Her research interests include psychoanalysis, gendered language, internet culture, and post-colonial theory. Rawia is currently working on a SSHRC-funded project entitled “Gendered Personifications and the Romantic Unconscious.”


Amal Ghazal, Director, Centre for Comparative Muslim Studies.