A young man of 30 who describes his family with pride during the initial consultation, shares a disturbing memory in a subsequent session: at the age of 11, he hears his father saying that while he was in a taxi at a traffic light, he saw a group of transvestites on the street. His father says: “The taxi driver had to tell me, ‘But you know they are men, right?’”. “It was shocking! They really looked like women!” And added: “Those guys should all be killed.”

The patient felt that this incident had affected the respect and good memories that he had of his father.

There are many references in Lacan —mainly during the 70’s— where segregation is linked to power struggle, to history, to the capitalist pseudo-discourse and to science. However, in Seminar XVIII, Lacan claims:  “It should be said that there is no need for (…) ideology for racism to be constituted. All that is needed is a surplus jouissance that is recognized as such.”[1]

We can see from this quote that beyond any identification, beyond any imaginary tension, any logic of mass culture or historical factors, Lacan refers to jouissance as that which is at the heart of the matter of segregation. We clearly understand that what is usually denied is the jouissance of the other, but this is not the most interesting part.

It is here that we can retroactively think the scope of another of his écrits, one from his early teaching, going back twenty years in his work to the point when, during his research on paranoia, Lacan states; “… when he attempts to show that it is precisely the kakon of his own being that the madman tries to get at in the object he strikes…”[2]

Here, in fact, we find the seed of all segregation: since it is one’s own jouissance that remains misrecognised; it is when something of this jouissance returns from the other that the most fundamental denial sets a drive into motion in order to attack it.

Coming back to this young man, during a session in which he was mentioning again his father’s saying “Those guys should all be killed”, the analyst asked him to describe the complete scene once more. After listening to it, the analyst said: “So, the taxi driver had to explain to your father that those people in the street were not women?” The patient quickly answered: “Exactly!” After a silence, he started laughing and added: “He thought they were girls! He liked them!”

Discovering that his father’s brutal statement was the effect of an encounter with his own opaque and strange jouissance; and that it was his own horror that drove his irrational reaction of hate of the other, brought the patient some relief in relation to this memory.

Even though the psychoanalyst might subscribe to movements that take fundamental rights into consideration (and I think it is desirable that they do), they will always have on the horizon the limits of what is at stake at this level. There is a real of hatred, of extremism and fanaticism, at the root of segregation; and this real can only be treated on a case‑by‑case basis, taking into account the subjective logic of the individual who professes it. Even so, if psychoanalysis can open up a question about this it could be a valid contribution to the world.


[1] Lacan, Jacques, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XVIII, Unpublished.

[2] Lacan, Jacques. Écrits, The first Complete Edition in English, W. W. Norton & Company, 2006.