Argentina on the Couch
The Times catches up on a trend
August 20, 2012
Over the weekend, the Times featured an article about the surge of psychoanalysis in Argentina. Not to boast, but back in 2010, Michelle Goldberg, our Diasporist Emerita, covered this trend masterfully for Tablet.
No one has a definitive explanation for the Argentine obsession with the unconscious. Like New Yorkers, Porteños, as Buenos Aires natives are called, have a reputation for anxiety, introspection, and gloom, but there’s no evidence that they’re more neurotic than residents of other metropolises. They are, however, certainly beset by complicated questions about identity. Argentina is a country of immigrants—in 1914, more than a third of the population was foreign-born—and many, particularly in the middle class, see themselves as more European than Latin American. For them, the years following World War II have been a series of shocks. “Argentines,” wrote Plotkin, “who were accustomed to believe that their country was a European enclave and therefore was immune to the problems that affected the rest of Latin America, suffered dictatorship, exclusion, violence, war and poverty. In the 1970s Argentina was ruled by one of the most murderous military regimes on the continent.”
Psychoanalysis in Argentina, not surprisingly, has been deeply rooted in the country’s Jewish community, the largest in Latin America. Ironically, though, it became entrenched in the broader society at times when Jews themselves were embattled. For Jews, Argentina can be a paradoxical place. It has Jewish gauchos and Hasidic barrios and even a town in the Pampas called Moises Ville, settled by Jews from Eastern Europe at the end of the 19th century. It also famously offered sanctuary to Nazis after World War II, and it has a history of intense, sometimes homicidal anti-Semitism. (As the Buenos Aires Herald lamented in 1977, “[I]t is not easy to explain why such un-Argentine attitudes as anti-Semitism and xenophobia … should continue to exist with such virulence.”) But none of this has affected Freud’s standing. Indeed, psychoanalysis in Argentina is so mainstream that it’s “not perceived as a Jewish discipline, a Jewish science,” says Plotkin.
Soothe our narcissistic injury and check out the rest of it here.
Related: In Treatment [Tablet Magazine]
Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.