ZADIG and the Irish Quest-ion[1]

The signifiers “Movida ZADIG” and the “unconscious is politics” seemed the place from where to begin, for these signifiers have been increasingly put to work particularly over the last year by our psychoanalytic community. For instance, the European Forum of ZADIG in Belgium will speak to the evocative title “Discourses that Kill.” Towards the Blog of the forum, Geert Hoornaert speaks of the “Trivialisation of Discourses that Kill,” which evokes, amongst many other things, resonances of discourse from another era that we remember well.  We know that words mark the body, both those spoken at home and those galvanised into public rhetoric, those which shape the laws of our civilisation, those which target, segregate and promote the hatred of the other outside of the group one identifies with. The one who is deemed different, the foreigner, the stranger is reserved a unique place for hatred to coalesce.

In July last year in the context of PIPOL 8: “A Non-Standard Clinical Practice,” psychoanalysts presented papers exploring and questioning the contemporary clinic and the effects of the societal push to impose norms, regulations, and to evaluate every facet of our lives. In other words, the constant pressure to objectify subjects. A pivotal segment of PIPOL 8 introduced a non-analyst to speak of his work. Who could not fail to be deeply moved by the impassioned presentation, one that was tinged with desperation of Dr. Pietro Bartolo? A gynaecologist by training but a forced coroner in action, Dr. Bartoli eloquently spoke of the horrors of medically checking the refugees who arrived in “coffin”[2] boats and having to certify the dead, day after day – thousands of bodies. He holds the title of Director of the Lampedusa Medical Centre and Coordinator of Health Interventions for Migrants. This very title seeks to cloak the Real of what he must do. Based in Lampedusa, an out-post of Europe closer to Africa than to Italy, he spoke of the real horror of this real front line with a humanity and desperate passion, one which was founded on the dignity of the subject.

Here in Ireland, we are not at this Real of the front line of receiving refugees. Ours is a different one. A recent news report spoke of a proposal to turn the Grand Hotel in Wicklow into a centre for direct provision[3] to accommodate 100 asylum-seekers. Some local residents were interviewed, who put forward objections dressed in their concern for their women and children who would obviously be victims of crime by these refugees. In other words, we don’t know who these people are and what they might do to us. The stranger is indeed someone to be very afraid of.  Ironically, the national broadcaster is currently screening a TV series named “Taken Down” which portrays (and purportedly with a high degree of accuracy) this refugee existence as lived entirely at the capricious and sadistic will of the other of the direct provision institution. The public discourse around this TV series is largely one of how shocking it is and that something should be done about it.

PIPOL 8 was also the occasion where I heard Jacques-Alain Miller speak of the Movida ZADIG as his response to his renewed desire realised retroactively. With this desire and not a small element of contingency,[4] ZADIG was created. A global network rapidly mobilised as a response to political phenomena aimed at attacking freedom and rights that attempt to impose the master signifier on civilisation today. “A global Lacanian political network, as an extension of the School … at the level of public opinion where everything has to be invented – … from its way of operating… to its causes to defend.[5]

This also poses a question: how to understand the principles by which such a network may operate as not part of the School? An interstice which provides a connection between network and School can be sought in the device of the Pass. To transmit the singular inventions of the analytic experience brought to its ends to those who have not had the same experience can only be achieved, not by providing an answer but by transmitting a “style” of work as Lacan said. The desire to produce knowledge fuels the work transference, from one subject to the link with another subject and then another, in a recurrence that aims at and concerns psychoanalysis itself[6]. This demonstrates a beyond of the clinic: the political dimension of the social bond. This demonstrates too how it is up to each analyst to reinvent psychoanalysis each time.

“Will psychoanalysis end up surrendering its arms in the face of the mounting impasses of our civilisation”?[7]  This is not a new question for psychoanalysis and with the signifiers “Year Zero”, we read the effort to begin again anew, to create, to invent, to interrogate the questions which Lacan repeatedly returned to throughout his teaching and further, to situate these questions within the social bond of today. ZADIG offers a reinvigorated way of re-inventing psychoanalysis for our era at the level of public opinion. How to enact it in each country, in each city remains to be honed, but it is no longer an opt in/opt out choice, for we must make psychoanalysis exist in the mounting impasses of our civilisation or risk it perishing.


[1] Already the title resonates with “The Irish Question” – a phrase of the past frequently used by colonial rule – one which completely foreclosed Irish identity.

[2] “Coffin boats” – a term associated with the unseaworthy, overcrowded and unsanitary ships sailing to USA during the Irish Famine, 1840.

[3] At present Ireland has just short of 6,000 people across 34 direct provision centres throughout the country.

[4] To take up a public position against Marine Le Pen and to “resituate the lessons of the French experience at a global level” and for democracy and the rule of law.

[5] Jacques-Alain Miller, “Freudian Field – Year Zero”, June 2017

[6] Jacques-Alain Miller, The Analysts’ Symposium, Lesson January 1990.

[7] Ibid.