Title: Roots and Uprootedness: Jewish women émigré psychoanalysts to the United States and the great wave of European intellectual immigration in 1930-1941

Instructor: Dr. Klara Naszkowska

Duration: 12 weeks

Format/location: virtual seminar (via zoom)

Semester: Spring 2022
 


Course overview

The course will look at one of the most significant phenomena in twentieth–century history: the forced migration of persons, ideas, and institutions from Europe to the United States in the face of Nazism from the perspectives of intellectual, cultural, social, political, family and personal history, as well as Jewish studies and women’s studies. Of special interest to the discussion is the condition of Jewish women psychoanalysts, and the issues of race, ethnicity, gender, sense of community, language and culture gaps, uprootedness and loss. We will use as our examples the personal and professional biographies of some of the famous Freudians: Helene Deutsch and Grete Bibring, as well as many other, underrecognized women.

 

The idea behind the course is to revive the tradition of the first pre-war psychoanalytic training institutes in Berlin and Vienna where students were required to take courses in a broad range of humanistic subjects. In general, psychoanalytic ideas and clinical material will not be discussed during this course. 

 

By addressing many issues that remain a contemporary concern, the course will help students today gain a broader perspective on their lives, and deepen their understanding of themselves. The figure of a Jewish female immigrant reveals facts that are relevant to us today.

 

Course structure

We will meet (virtually) once a week for 1.5 hours and will focus on one topic per meeting. Each class will begin with a lecture, followed by a discussion. Readings are not mandatory but vigorous class participation and engagement with the course material is encouraged.

 

Psychoanalytic ideas and clinical material will not be discussed during this course. Previous psychoanalytic knowledge is not required nor expected.

 

The course materials will include academic papers, essays, published and unpublished memoirs, interviews, correspondence from authors such as Hannah Arendt, Eva Hoffman, Nancy Chodorow, Emily Kuriloff, Helene Deutsch, Harriet Freidenreich, Margaret Mahler, Dora Hartmann, Frida Kahn, Maria Piers, Edith Jacobson, Atina Grossmann, Judith Kestenberg, Grete Bibring, among others, as well as newspaper articles, films and podcasts. 

 

Students will be provided with all materials.

Semester outline

Week 1: “We don’t like to be called ‘refugees’”

 

Introduction to the course.

Who is an intellectual immigrant, a refugee, an exile, an enemy alien, a denizen, a conscious pariah? What do those labels entail? What were the difficulties and struggles encountered by the newcomers (language gap, culture gap, relationship with the past, loss, homesickness, identity issues, acculturation)? How does immigration reinvent a person?

 

Week 2: “Where they burn books, they will also ultimately burn people”
 

Political, social and economic situation in Germany and Austria in 1914–1930s. The aftermath of WWI in Germany. Hitler’s path to power: democratic parliamentary elections in 1930; the antisemitic campaign and legislation in Germany. Significance of the act of burning books. The advent of Engelbert Dollfuss’ Christian Fascism in Austria. The Anschluss. What did it all mean for psychoanalysts in Europe (Berlin, Vienna, Budapest). The Goering Institute. The future of psychoanalysis in Germany and Austria; was it buried or murdered? Response of the psychoanalytic community to the political and social events.

 

Week 3: The politics of emigration. Social response to emigration (political, social and legal history)
 

American Isolationism. The social and economic situation in the United States in 1930s and 1940s. US immigration laws in 1920s–1950s. Quotas, affidavits and visas. The America First Committee. Service organizations and groups helping prospective émigrés. The Emergency Committee on Relief and Immigration of the American Psychoanalytic Association. The response of the German and American public, and the American Jewry to the aforementioned events and to the U.S.

 

Week 4: “America is a mistake”
 

Freud’s visit to America in 1909 and its aftermath. Freud’s fears and ambivalence toward America. The beginnings of psychoanalysis in the US (working groups, societies, institutes). The contributions of émigré women psychoanalysts to the development of psychoanalytic movement in the US. "Classical" psychoanalysis vs. American psychoanalysis. Incorporation of psychoanalysis into medicine and its consequences. The question of lay analysis. Introduction of some émigré women lay analysts.

Week 5: Lost in Translation / Paths to America
 

What was lost in translation and transformation of European psychoanalytic theory and practice in the course of its passage to American culture. Start and end dates, scope, pace of the Great Wave of Intellectual Immigration of 1930–1941. 80+ women psychoanalysts of the said wave. Why America? Stories of women psychoanalysts of the said wave.

 

Week 6:  The Promised Land? Adjustment, assimilation, acculturation, Americanization
 

Why did Freudian psychoanalysis fuse perfectly with American culture (social, familial and intellectual history)? How did psychoanalysis influence popular culture? The idea of the Promised Land. How did the émigré psychoanalysts react to the American environment? Strategies of adjustment. Success stories and tragic stories of émigré analysts in America (Clara Happel).

 

Week 7: Jewish women doctors, Jewish (and Gentile) foremothers of psychoanalysis
 

The first female psychoanalysts in Europe and their contributions. Comparison of the power structures in the psychoanalytic movement in Europe and the United States. Status of an outsider. The absence/presence of the first female doctors in Europe and in the United States. Career patterns of the émigré female doctors in the U.S. Status of women immigrants in the émigré community, the diaspora.

 

Complex multiple identities of émigré women–analysts

Jews, women, professional women, pioneers of psychoanalysis, Europeans, foreigners, German-speaking refugees, mothers, wives. The Jewish New Women. Gender salience or lack thereof. How did the complex multiple identities of émigré women-analysts relate to one another? Misogyny, antisemitism, xenophobia in Europe and America. Are different interpretations of women's identities rooted in race, class, as well as different social or cultural conditions? Whether and how did these women have to reinvent themselves differently from men?

Week 8: First–generation émigré women psychoanalysts 
 

Reconstruction of personal and professional biographies of eight first-generation émigré women psychoanalysts to the US. Family background (nationality, race, ethnicity, education), religious background, education, career patterns, marriage, maternity, paths to America, professional contributions.

 

Week 9: The “Black Cat” group
 

Emigration from Vienna to New York vs. Boston. Reconstruction of personal and professional biographies of four émigré women psychoanalysts to the US. Family background (nationality, race, ethnicity, education), religious background, education, career patterns, marriage, maternity, paths to America, professional contributions. Personal history, oral history.

Week 10: The "Political Freudians" 

Self–censorship and repression of political, social and cultural aspects of European psychoanalysis in the United States. The women of the “Fenichel/Reich circle” in Europe and America.

 

Week 11: Addressing the trauma, loss and the Holocaust

The case of Judith Kestenberg

 

Week 12: Psychoanalysis and Migration
 

How does psychoanalysis speak about immigration? What was the impact of emigration of the thirties on psychoanalytic practice? Psychoanalytic traumas.
 

 

Learning objectives

By the end of the course students will be able to:
 

• have a comprehensive understanding of the phenomenon of the Great Wave of European Intellectual Emigration of 1930-41 to the United States.
 

• have an understanding of the two different approaches to psychoanalytical theory and practice in prewar Europe and United States, and the transformation of psychoanalysis in America.

• have an understanding of the beginnings of psychoanalysis in the United States.
 

• understand the contribution of women to the development of the psychoanalytic movement in prewar Europe.


• understand the contribution of émigré psychoanalysts to the history of American psychoanalysis, with the focus on women analysts.


• develop the ability to name the leading women analysts of the first and second generation who emigrated from Europe to the United States in 1930-41.
 

• understand the complex multiple identities of the first women psychoanalysts who emigrated to the US: family and religious background, education, importance or lack thereof of gender and Jewishness, and more.


• understand that different interpretations of women's identities can be rooted in race, class, as well as different social or cultural conditions.
 

• develop an awareness of the politics of emigration to the United States in the 1920s-1950s. (immigration laws, quotas, affidavits, etc.).


• develop a familiarity with the underrepresented foremothers of psychoanalysis (personal and professional biographies).