Laurent Dumoulin – Zazie in the lab

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«  When this other comes closer, one must be as optimistic as a geneticist to believe that this generates a movement of solidarity, to believe that this implies immediately to recognize ourselves in him.” (1)

« Doukijouidonktan ? » (2) might ask in 2019, a Gabriel neurobiologist but also – let’s dream a little, enlightened by Lacan. Indeed, if the great hope of neurosciences is to make human passions a matter of organism, it must be noted that this is at most an attempt at localization and identification, of these, in the fashionable of the “you are here” that relieves the tourist lost in an unknown land.

At the turn of the 1970’s, Lacan formulated the discourse of science, especially underlining its universalizing dimension.  The questioning of the semblants that until then organized the world having a fading effect on differences and particularities, and this until the point where – one man being worth another – appears suddenly the harrowing enigma of being. Lacan draws out the logical consequences: “Our future of common markets will find its balance in a much harder extension of segregation processes.” (3). Fifty years later, we find that he was right.    

If the universal ideal insists for science, the speaking being does not cease to collide with the absolute strangeness which is for him, his own jouissance. As far as it is concerned, the for-all and its derivative stumble. In the realm of jouissance reigns the most absolute and radically singular. From a hole in knowledge, that which the body enjoys stays strictly unrecognized. Racism, as a phenomenon of segregated speech is an attempt – for the worst, to treat that. To appoint and exclude another enjoying the wrong way, subtracts the parlêtre to the unbearable of that point from where he cannot recognise himself.

For the geneticist, racism is scientifically false: there are no races at the level of genes. The optimism of the geneticist, of which Jacques-Alain Miller speaks of, would therefore be to think that the absence of an organic substrate to segregation would by reason, provide the appeasement of this “passion of being” (4) that is hatred. The we are all organically the same would restore the Other recognizable as alike.

For Lacan, race is a matter of speech, therefore it is related to truth: “the race of which I speak is not what anthropology claims to call physical […]. It constitutes itself by the means of how symbolic places are transmitted by the order of speech.”(5). Lacan knew when he was constructing the category of speech, how to recall its structural importance imposing itself on each one. Thus, what is transmitted through speech does not just get swept away. It must be taken into account: the Other in this perspective is not reduced to the same.

If the brain consists as an organ, the unconscious as structured as a language exists. Here is a first disjunction, a first nothing in common. Let’s make one more step: how do scientists and psychoanalysts each apprehend the object of their practice? The brain and the unconscious, do they make the same case?

If there are occasional debates about the influences of size, shape or still of gender, for neurosciences brains are all the same in terms of one brain functions like another brain. Sometimes, a disorder is found and it is a question of a variation in comparison to a norm, potentially rectifiable by diverse means in direct contact with the organism. The brain is apprehended then from the categories of the universal and the particular. It is transposable and exportable. Neo-liberalism does not deprive itself to take support on this for all, to find an extension of the gadget market matching the organ.

The unconscious can only be understood in the singular – our congresses and publications testify to this. Psychoanalysis is essentially interested in what, in one case, makes it unique and non-transposable. The bone of the case lies precisely in this without common measure, in this incomparable. This absolute singularity results from the contingent dimension in which words have marked us. Throughout his teaching, Lacan will constantly insist on this dimension of tuché, at the heart of the meeting of words and body, stressing how it is “in this motérialisme that lies the grip of the unconscious” (6): the unconscious is made from those scattered pieces of language with which each of us manages. Because it is the word that left such a mark on the body, an indelible scar and one without reason but that which the parlêtre will border with a fiction. The unconscious is witness to the radical solitude of the one who speaks:  he is, as such, this nothing in common.

Translation: Tracy Hoijer-Favre
Reviewed by Caroline Heanue

  1. Miller J.-A., « Les causes obscures du racisme », Mental, n°38, novembre 2018, pp. 148-149.
  2. Cf   Zazie dans le métro, de R. Queneau.
  3. Lacan J., « Proposition du 9 octobre 1967 sur le psychanalyste de l’École », (1967), Autres écrits, Paris, Seuil, 2001, p. 257.
  4. Lacan J., Le Séminaire, livre I, Les écrits techniques de Freud, (1953-1954), texte établi par Jacques-Alain Miller, Paris, Seuil, 1975, pp. 297-298.
  5. Lacan J., « L’étourdit », (1972), Autres écrits, Paris, Seuil, 2001, p. 462.
  6. Lacan J., « Conférence à Genève sur le symptôme » (1975), texte établi par Jacques-Alain Miller, Virilités, La Cause du désir, Paris, Navarin, n° 95, 2017, p. 13.

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