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  • The Madness of Curing1,2
  • Antonio Viego (bio)

Some readers of parts of my seemingly constitutively uncompleted manuscript The Life of the Undead: Latino Health and Disease have responded in ways that seem to suggest that they think there is something fundamentally sick in its approach to questions about Latino mental and physical health and disease due to the choices it makes for the handling of its objects. These choices are seen as reflecting a general indifference to suffering, an indifference that has been rather unambiguously and predictably attributed to the psychoanalytic theory the project draws on. Its author seems overly unconcerned with social justice, which is not entirely untrue, since The Life of the Undead is, in fact, not trying to make social justice for Latinos the point that legitimates it as an intellectual project, nor is it trying to make a case for the usefulness of psychoanalysis for conceiving a politics of resistance of whatever sort. There is, nonetheless, some temptation for me to want to challenge the age-old charge that psychoanalytic theory is “useless,” that psychoanalysis is “fraudulent” even. But I would have done so not for reasons motivated by the express intent of reversing the negative valuations that psychoanalysis will never care to live down, since, honestly, psychoanalysis does not really—to borrow the sage words of Joan Jett (1980)—“give a damn about [its] bad reputation,” but rather for the reason of illustrating that in one’s defense of psychoanalysis, one is communicating one’s continual resistance to it—not one’s belief in it. We should not be “enthusiasts” of psychoanalysis, as psychoanalyst Adam Phillips (2006, 6) cautions: “When psychoanalysis is being wholeheartedly valued it is not being taken seriously. … To accept psychoanalysis, to believe in psychoanalysis is to miss the point.” It has taken me more than a day to agree to write the sentence you are reading at this moment because I was convinced I might be able to say something about social justice that was analogous to what I had just said, through Phillips, about psychoanalysis, but I could not be sure that “to believe in social justice is to [End Page 154] miss the point,” or that “when social justice is being wholeheartedly valued it is not being taken seriously.”

It strikes me that the readers of The Life of the Undead I mention make their diagnoses based on criteria that they assume to be the criteria of the field of study that the project is seen to emerge out of—Latino studies. These readers are probably right. They seem to know something about identity knowledges and political desires and social justice; or I should say that they know what they may reasonably feel entitled to expect of work in identity knowledges—specifically, that this work has recognizable political desires for social justice. In Object Lessons (2012), Robyn Wiegman deftly explores a range of “identity knowledges … in order to consider what they have wanted from the objects of study they assemble in their self-defining critical obligation to social justice” (3). Because “identity knowledges are animated by political desires,” she argues “that each has sought quite explicitly to know itself and to assess its self-worth by situating its object relations as a living habit of—and for—social justice” (4). I find Wiegman’s terms helpful in clarifying for me why The Life of the Undead might seem to put some readers ill at ease and why, additionally, I do not recognize myself as an identity-knowledge scholar described in the two passages from Object Lessons cited above. You cannot talk about health, illness, and disease among ethnic-racialized groups and not have a considerable readership balk at the author’s decision to say openly that the critical practice it performs does not rationalize its existence as born of a concern with the fact of, in my example, Latinos’ health and disease, whether psychological or physical. Additionally, its author is not going to spend any time figuring out what kind of policy-minded intervention he should feel pressured to make that might somehow assist Latinos in living less—as the “epidemiological paradox” might compel one to put...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2151-7371
Print ISSN
2151-7363
Pages
pp. 154-159
Launched on MUSE
2013-12-12
Open Access
No
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