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Otto Fenichel’s Rundbriefe for the Present Moment: Community Psychoanalysis in the United States

December 9, 2023 @ 10:00am - 12:00pm EST

From 1934 until 1945, Otto Fenichel and a small group of left-leaning psychoanalysts were forced to flee the rise of Nazism in Germany. As refugees, they furtively shared their ideas about the politics of institutional psychoanalysis through a series of private Rundbriefe (circulating letters, or circulars), and discussed in the exchange of letters the possibility of developing a Marxist, socially conscious and engaged psychoanalysis. As Russell Jacoby outlined in his 1983 book The Repression of Psychoanalysis, the efforts of Fenichel and his colleagues did not prevent the ultimate dormancy and repression of the more radical social project of psychoanalysis, at least in the United States.

This program hopes to take up the Rundbriefe experience at a sociopolitical moment that echoes that of Fenichel, with war in Europe and across the globe and the rise of authoritarianism. Between September and November 2023, a group of psychoanalysts, psychoanalytic psychotherapists, and scholars began to exchange letters responding to Letter One, Take II that the conference organizers wrote using Fenichel’s Rundbriefe as a starting point, and which is available for review at www.rundbriefe.com. This conference will offer a live Zoom rendition of the circular exchange experience and an open conversation between a group of panelists about the future of Community Psychoanalysis in the United States.

Debbie Steinke