My mission is to make sure that nobody can say: ‘I didn’t know[1]

Yannis Behrakis, (1960-2019), photographer, was regularly on the road covering violence and upheaval all over the world. He was one of Reuters’ most decorated photographers. He won a Pulitzer Prize in 2016 for coverage of the refugee crisis in Greece. One of his photos, showing a Syrian father with his young daughter in his arms walking alone along the national road of the North of Greece on the interminable road of exile, was circulated all over the world. I prefer the photo showing Behrakis himself who had put down his camera in order to try to help a young child refugee.

In recent days we have witnessed an expression of racism and brutality without shame in Lesbos and on the borders with Turkey in northern Greece. Erdogan opened Turkey’s borders as an expression of power towards Europe. Extreme-right groups, called indignant citizens, voters of the Golden Dawn, appear in front of indifferent or consenting police. They insult, they attack refugees, pregnant women, babies who arrive exhausted; they prevent their boats from docking; they attack NGO staff; they organize pogroms in refugee camps; they set fires…

Hate is a product of the death drive. In addition to its imaginary dimension, hate touches on the real, it aims at the being of the Other. The imaginary dimension of the mirror stage is marked by the aggressivity which, according to Lacan, marks the sign of the death drive. The aggressivity of the mirror stage is based on an ignorance of oneself, the subject projecting onto the other a hatred which concerns him in his being. Beyond the narcissistic problem, this other, who we hate, must come to embody the bad object, the waste, the kakon in a relationship of extimity.

In his seminar Extimity, [2] Jacques-Alain Miller poses the question of what is Other in the Other. Hate targets the jouissance of the Other, the different way that the Other enjoys. The racist hates the one to whom he supposes a jouissance not only different from his own but also threatening his own mode of jouissance. For example, the prejudices that circulate in racist discourse in Greece say, among other things, that foreigners, refugees will come to Islamise us, to steal our jobs and rape our women!

“Hate of the Other is certainly more than aggressivity. There is a constant in this aggressivity which deserves the name of hate, and which targets the real in the Other. What makes this Other to be the Other so that we can hate him, so that we can hate him in his being? Well, it’s the hate of the Other’s jouissance. This is even the most general form that we can give to this modern racism as we verify it. It is the hate towards the particular way in which the Other enjoys. “[3]

In his text on racism, Eric Laurent[4] underlines that “from Lacan’s perspective, however, there is always, in any human community, a rejection of an inassimilable jouissance, which forms the mainspring of a possible barbarism.” Welcoming the foreigner implies the ethical requirement of having at least recognized the foreign in oneself, the most intimate expression of extimity which is incumbent upon us to recognize and isolate the jouissance which is proper to it. At this moment in Greece we are confronted more with the barbarism than the welcoming.

Yannis Behrakis, combated with his art the passion for ignorance. He died last year on the 2nd of March 2019 after a long battle with cancer.

His photos, his voice wake us up. We miss him….



[2] Jacques-Alain Miller, Extimité [Extimity] (1985-86). Teaching delivered at the Department of Psychoanalysis of the University of Paris 8. Lesson of 27th November 1985. Unpublished.

[3] Op.cit.

[4] Eric Laurent, “Racism 2.0”, 2014. Available online: