Cite as: Hannah Proctor, Case Histories from Below: Class Struggle in the Psychoanalytic Consulting Room, lecture, ICI Berlin, 1 March 2022, video recording, mp4, 44:04 <>
1 Mar 2022

Case Histories from Below

Class Struggle in the Psychoanalytic Consulting Room
By Hannah Proctor
‘The recovery of voices has been a central purpose of history from below from the very beginning’, writes Marcus Rediker in ‘The Poetics of History from Below’ (2010). Writing such histories usually necessitates working with sources that were not produced by the oppressed people whose voices the historian hopes to recover. Feminist scholars have long sought to counteract the clinical interpretations in Freud’s pseudonymised case histories with readings that foreground the circumstances of the real women who were his patients, supplementing his cases with social history. These re-readings not only recovered voices but also contested Freud’s analyses of his woman patients’ very capacity to speak, as Elaine Showalter noted in The Female Malady (1985): ‘Freud failed Dora because he was too quick to impose his own language on her mute communications.’

It is axiomatic to characterise psychoanalysis as the preserve of the bourgeoisie due to the money and time generally required to access treatment. Though certainly true for most times and places, the affordability of psychoanalysis has varied geographically and historically, depending both on provision available under different healthcare systems and on the existence of organisations offering low fees or free clinics. Indeed, psychoanalytic consulting rooms can be sites of class antagonism and discussions of class occasionally ruffle the pages of psychoanalytic case histories. Focusing on examples by British psychoanalysts, including Marion Milner and Christopher Bollas, this paper will attempt to construct an alternative to existing analyses of the encounter between Marxism and psychoanalysis that focus on abstract theories by grounding itself instead in socially and economically contextualised accounts of clinical practice.Hannah Proctor is Wellcome Trust Research Fellow at the Centre for the Social History of Health and Healthcare at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow. She is currently researching a cluster of social scientific projects based at institutions in the US in the early years of the Cold War that developed theories of the ‘Soviet mind’. Her monograph Psychologies in Revolution: Alexander Luria’s ‘Romantic Science’ and Soviet Social History was published as part of the Palgrave-Macmillan series Mental Health in Historical Perspective in 2020. Her second book Burnout: On the Psychic Toll of Political Struggle, which she began working on as a fellow at the ICI Berlin (2016-2018), is forthcoming with Verso. She writes a regular column for the culture section of Tribune magazine, is a member of the editorial collective of Radical Philosophy and is web/social media/reviews editor of History of the Human Sciences.

Organized by Wilhelm Brüggen (BIPP), Monika Englisch (BIPP) and Andreas Gehrlach (HU Berlin)


ICI Berlin
(Click for further documentation)

Organized by

Wilhelm Brüggen
Monika Englisch
Andreas Gehrlach
The lecture series is a cooperation of the Berlin Institute for Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis (BiPP), the Cultural Science Institute of the Humboldt University Berlin, the International Psychoanalytic University (IPU), and the ICI Berlin, generously funded by the Friedrich Stiftung.

Video in English

Format: mp4
Length: 00:44:04
First published on:
Rights: © ICI Berlin