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Discussion

Psychoanalysis meets Democracy: A Conversation on Free Speech and How Talking Cures

09/29 Thursday | 6:30pm

How do we make meaning of mass shootings? Why did Britons vote for Brexit? What has led to a presidential campaign founded on hateful speech, lies, misogyny, calls to “law and order,” and even sub-rosa encouragement to break the law? Democracy and free speech are in peril, and the peril exposes deeply symptomatic social, racial, and economic fault lines. Might democracy benefit from some time on the couch? What does psychoanalysis offer us in these worrying times?

NYU’s Institute for Public Knowledge invites you to join us in considering these questions along with a distinguished panel of engaged thinkers: political scientist John Ferejohn, feminist theorist and writer Carol Gilligan; and psychoanalyst Jill Gentile, author of the new book, Feminine Law: Freud, Free Speech, and the Voice of Desire. Psychoanalyst Steve Botticelli will moderate this wide ranging exploration of the of the intertwined legacies of Freud and the Founding Fathers. The panelists will take up a psychoanalytic reading of the First Amendment; Trumpism and the vitriol aimed at Hillary; and psychoanalysis’s implications for a practice of emancipatory democracy—one that enfranchises the marginalized, that unleashes candid, truthful discourse, and that guides self-determined and collective ethical action. Above all, they will consider a psychoanalytic view on free speech, and how we might open collective, embodied spaces for the democratizing action of desire.


John Ferejohn is the Samuel Tilden Professor at NYU Law School.  He studies democratic institutions and democratic theory and is the author of Pork Barrel Politics, The Personal Vote, The Republic of Statutes, and, most recently, Forged Through Fire: War, Peace and the Democratic Bargain.

Jill Gentile is a faculty member and cochair of the Independent Track at the NYU Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis, and a faculty member at the Institute for the Psychoanalytic Study of Subjectivity in New York. A corresponding editor for Contemporary Psychoanalysis, she is the author of Feminine Law: Freud, Free Speech, and the Voice of Desire, with Michael Macrone (2016).

Carol Gilligan is a psychologist and the author of In a Different Voice,”the little book that started a revolution.” Her other books include The Birth of Pleasure (2002), Kyra: A Novel (2008), The Deepening Darkness: Patriarchy, Resistance, and Democracy’s Future with David A. J. Richards (2009), and  Joining the Resistance. Having held the inaugural chair in Gender Studies at Harvard University before being named Pitt Professor of American History and Culture at the University of Cambridge, Gilligan is now University Professor of Applied Psychology and the Humanities at NYU.

Steven Botticelli is on the faculty of the NYU Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis, where he serves as cochair of the Independent Track. He is a contributing editor for Studies in Gender and Sexuality and the Division/Review, and coeditor (with Adrienne Harris) of First Do No Harm: The Paradoxical Encounters of Psychoanalysis, Warmaking and Resistance (2010).

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