The Immigrant, His Shrink, His Judge, His Social Worker, and Other Representatives of the Occult1

Tobie Nathan


ROFESSIONS, OBJECTS, NETWORKS Someone goes to see a psychologist, a psychiatrist, a social worker, a

teacher... But behind every professional stands an entire world and above all, of course, a profession: teachers who have handed down habits, attitudes, philosophies, a "school" of thought; clans, hierarchies; and also, networks of influence, of power, of friendships . . . and—let's speak plainly—networks of objects. Foras
we well know, networks are structured around objects.

What kinds of objects? you may well ask. Real objects, objects as we ordinarily understand the word object. In the West, when one approaches questions of psychology and psychiatry, those objects are books, that is, publishers, editors, publicists, printers, distributors, booksellers, trade presses and specialized presses, critics who guide their readers, etc. Our professions are also organized around drugs: laboratories, factories, marketing techniques, colossal budgets, tens of thousands of employees.... Finally—and perhaps especially—there are objects of thought, concepts2: the "psyche," the "unconscious," "anxiety," "depression" . . . banner-concepts under which are grouped specific networks, specific ideas that are propagated thanks to elaborate strategies, nepotism, conquests of fiefdoms and bastions: Such and Such University has an "Institut de Psychanalyse" approach; So and So's private practice has an "Association de Psychanalyse de France" tendency; the entire education philosophy of the "Protection Judiciaire de la Jeunesse" has yet another tendency. . . .


The Immigrant. the we will come to take the place of the ill and lonely /. to feel oneself to be "unique" because one finally conforms to the model 312 ." etc. not without suffering. the social worker. or the most humane (not like in Argentina). Such is life—let's admit it—in our hybrid. the dark paintings hung on the walls that led me to imagine a thousand things . .. overcome by the vertigo of the abyss. "In France. forever after. the psychiatrist. the smell of wax on the wooden floors in the cool of December Wednesday mornings. Socrates revived.. even if he thinks himself.. a chemical imbalance capable of being corrected." Or else." Thus. "the unconscious is structured like a language". And he will derive pride.. whose strategy consists of getting hold of a sector of power by means of tactics that are very similar to those of political influence. that delicate transition between "primary. the white man will always manage to integrate himself in one of the white man's networks. in one way or another." this strength derives especially from having joined a group. pleasure. of course. our scientists have proved that depression is a sickness like any other. Then. . behind the psychologist. we have at our disposal the psychoanalytic method that comes closest to Freudian intuition (not like in America). Behind these banner-concepts there is a kind of army organized into battalions. the conflicts of influence with other schools and with related professions. His Social Worker. a school of philosophy and of individual freedom . regiments. a unique strength from the ascetic experience of spreading his personal responsibility to the wild unconscious drives that are boiling on his "lower floors. indeed. His Judge. cannibalistic orality and paranoid expulsion of bad internal objects . complex. one damn day in the first year of his life. "Thanks to their tireless research. And. and ends up saying... . . . but those seven years of weekly appointments in the semidarkness of an opulent office on the boulevard SaintGermain . "the father is the separator of the fusional relationship between the mother and her infant". the psychoanalytic school that disseminated the banner concepts. in one way or another. . and so on and so forth." For example: dreams are the indirect and hallucinatory actualization of a repressed desire". . a person comes to consult one of us and perceives. he dives into a kind of confused fear that some people call "transference!" When this person comes more or less from the same world as we do. to have missed. it means that one is coming up against one of these "banner-concepts. A curious paradox. if he believes that he has gotten. or the most ethical (not like in Eastern Europe). when one reads a form of the verb "to be" in a text from the human sciences. fragile professions that could be called those of the "practicioners of the human sciences. His Shrink. " For if the psychoanalyzed white man thinks of himself as a "unique and irreplaceable" individual. . As a rule. And even if his position is peripheral. he appropriates fragments of the network. an immense network. cells. and intellectual understanding from belonging to the great work of light." "The treatment didn't cure me.

His Shrink. moris. the individual bearer of universal laws—and this solitude is not even nourished by the same theoretical ancestors. incense that will make a man lose all his vitality in the presence of a strange woman? This man. too. a conscientious street cleaner between the hours of 6:00 and 8:00 a. cheikhs. the all-powerfulness of his infantile thoughts. Analyzed. fkib (traditional healers).The Immigrant. But what about others? What about the (obviously Islamic) Moroccan." an almost animal solitude.'" For the other—the Bambara—could never present himself in this way: "And I. usually. This is perhaps true for the white man. pasteurized' the white man lives in solitude. is inscribed in a multitude of networks. who has been named. the family that was in charge of burying the boli in the sacred forest. rehabilitated. we find the white professional. initiated. I belong to the second generation of Malinke from Kita to emigrate to Konakri. he does so in order to join an elite that preceded preceded him only by a few lengths on the path to redemptive illumination. those who need to know him can guess 313 . a "wild child. dare I say. and. proud to recognize himself amid a crowd of others living in solitude. . but from now on an obscure Lacanian. seeking in the twists and turns of dusty corridors his peers huddled around the same light.. The solitude of a naked man. his dead. Psychoanalyzed. if he accepts the supposed Oedipian interdicts. And this dissymetry becomes flagrant when these people find themselves confronted with the Western professional. but simply because the worlds of others are deprived of all representatives. yes. social worked. His Social Worker.. and healed by karamokos. mother. and 7:00 and 11:00 p. circumcized. and Bamanans. wife and sisters all know the secret ingredients of lovemaking: spices to put in the sauce to make wives even more desirable to their husbands. And the evasive action consists in not giving the only answer that would not be a lie: "I am the local representative of the neo-Hegelian tendency of the third scission of the psychoanalysts of the fourth group (the one from 1988).m. or more effective (as everyone knows. A brutal solitude. If he gives up his illusions. ." He cannot introduce himself for. his gods.. proposed by an ideological group. the approved and labeled representative of a complex network with countless offshoots inviting the other into an infinite solitude that he is also advised to desire—the solitude to conceive of himself as a unique being. the great-grandson of a Berber marabout whose tomb pilgrims still come to honor from the four corners of the country. On the one hand. as well as the Bambara from Mali. a psychically structured monad. or harder (as in "hard" science). the solitude of a human being cut off from his universe. chouafas (seers). this effectiveness is very often revealed to be relative in our disciplines). Not that the networks of whites are more pertinent (this is of course what they claim). at the crossroads of which we will necessarily find imams. His Judge. "Who are you?" is a question the black man doesn't dare ask.m. by the same philosophical sources. his beliefs. and whose grandmothers.

Whoever speaks solely to the individual. at the end of his treat- 314 . and the griots. and I don't know what other ideas that are as "profoundly" mystical as they are intellectually vapid. circumventing the authorized representatives of that individual's groups of reference. the public word from the griot. thanks to the griots. public speech. the "men of words. certain categories of people are entitled to enter publicly in relation with the vital forces of the group. words of the night. by the way he pronounces the Bambara language. the karamokos and the moris with the god of Islam. The Bamanans do business.6 So. "treat" the dead. that curses. he who. Qui êtes-vous? "I am the local representative of the neoHegelian tendency of the third scission of the psychoanalysts of the fourth group (the one from 1988). with the powers of the forest and with fetishes. just as in ours.The Immigrant. "recognize the subject." "listen to his desire. deaths. Présentation Je suis le représentant ^ local de la tendance néohégellienne de la troisième scission des psychanalystes du quatrième groupe." his origin by the way he holds himself. speech that appeases and that declares war. murmured in the hole in the tree by the master hunter. marriages. the "free man. honor divinities. He cannot introduce himself especially since in no sense is he a representative. If the WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) can. écoute. His Judge. solemn messages—of births. knowing all this. let's not try to bring up here notions of transference. brightly sung to the monotonous rhythm of the cora. powers.. of leavetakings and returns. under his breath. in fact. in the name of the group." requests. His Shrink. and from one familial or ethnic structure to another. and naturally of misfortune and illness—circulate. most of the time.." is in fact merely preventing the representatives of the powers of his group from speaking. and the objects that animate them. words of the daylight. In his world. has not been invested with any authority to unwrap offerings. During ceremonies—public or private—the hron. from one individual to another. or worship ancestors. empathy. whoever claims to understand the person. His Social Worker." with public words. Thus.

His Social Worker." The Koran even explains that when Abraham came to tell his son Ishmael that God had asked him to sacrifice him. When one asks a Bambara what language he speaks." on the contrary. ment. it is always a matter of the dynamics of connections among a multiplicty of networks. In other words. can only experience the cruel absence of any authorized representative of his groups of reference. His Shrink. the Moroccan.The Immigrant. when he is taken up by the white man's network." He is called a mori or a karamoko. "I am a Marxist". most Bambaras are Muslim. under the harsh rule of Sundjata Keita. the son responded to his father "Islam!" ("Submit!") Given that. someone who knows "the book" and who knows how to "make writings." The story goes that during the founding of the Mandingo empire. the fetish manipulator. today. or even at times simultaneously. For. Everyone seems to agree that the originary language would be Mandingo. the word "Bamanan" signifies "insubordinate" or "rebellious. "I am a Mandingo". someone who handle bolis—fetishes. a Bamanan is the person who. For example. The first reminds us of a historic fact: "We are Bamanans.10 Things become even more complex when we consider that this definition is the only one that respects the Bambaras' own formulation. in this second meaning. the fact that they designate their own group by a non-Islamic name. and various fumigations have been exhausted. the Bambara. incantations. But in Mandingo. the descendent^ of those who." The second brings into play another meaning of the word bamanan. recognize in his therapist the representative of the group to which he dreams of belonging and with which the therapeutic movement has slowly led him to desire being affiliated. But when the Muslim healer has proved ineffective. the word Mam is the command "submit [to authority]. "I am an engineer. a Muslim healer is first called in. one group refused to submit to Islam and seceeded from the larger group." they 315 .9 Thus. when he is seriously ill. that is. rather. an "insubordinate one" will be consulted. refusing to submit to Sundjata. His Judge. went to take refuge in the Segou and Bamako regions. When a person is sick and all the other family recipes of plants. under the name Bamanan—"insubordinate" to Sundjata? And in Arabic. a Bamanan. "I am from Mali". the word Bamanan signifies the group of people who are still part of the networks structured arround extremely complex and powerful objects: the bolis. a misplaced problem. if they recognize themselves in several kinds of groups: "I am a Muslim". can only be healed by the bolis of the Bamanan. in French he replies Bambara and in his language he replies Bamanan. belonging to a certain universe is never an automatic given. As I have just explained. take the Bambara group: it seems that the word Bambara is a French deformation of the word Bamanan. one that indicates that they are not submitted to the Muslim religion. the "other. it is not at all a matter of identifying the "member of a logical class"—and who would have determined the ensemble of logical classes in the first place?8 And who would have determined the criteria for belonging? In reality. cultural or ethnic affiliation or identity7 reveals itself to be a false problem or. But the Bambara language is a close relative of the Malinke and Mandingo languages. Once the question is framed as such. highlights two things.

and thus in general they dismiss from their office any representative of their patient's group. they believe the laws they deal with to be approximate and modifiable. fall under Article 64?" Isn't the law that I am going to apply to him in direct contradiction to Bambara law? Wouldn't he fall under the laws of Mali.. etc. even more so than others. the judge must necessarily construct meaning. by their very mode of functioning. that is. psychological discourse in order to insert meaning between the offense and the persons involved. and to put themselves in the position of the most active therapist of the person in question." Secondly. in situations concerning immigrants and which involve the cooperation of legal experts and shrinks. His Social Worker. truth that has been constructed by means of confronting a great number of representatives of different interest groups: prosecutors. This is why judges—all judges—are so fond of psychology and psychiatry. whereas shrinks. completely change their way of formulating when they announce: "I was cured by the Bamanan. Bamanan? IMMIGRANTS. A Bambara therefore defines himself by identifying his most active therapist. treat him with suspicion and skepticism. as a matter of principle.The Immigrant. or even the laws of custom?" And we react sympathetically to the magistrate's questioning. AND THE JUDGE The problem of belonging is naturally even more acute in the judge's chambers. whereas psychologists and psychiatrists imagine that there exist "laws of nature" that have been scientifically established and are therefore immutable. wereas nothing is more difficult for a psychologist or psychiatrist than to imagine the existence of a "Bambara psyche." A Bambara thus does not define himself through his affiliation with a logical class (the abstract group of Bambaras). is more logical than giving this therapist the name of the entire group. it is easy to imagine that a "Bambara law" exists. for we know that between the suject and the penalty. SHRINKS. social workers. jurists are used to dealing with fabricated truth. in the final analysis. the objects that structure the network of the Bambaras. the manipulater of the bolis. 316 . Magistrates are obsessed with questions such as: "Does the Bambara understand the meaning of the law I am refering to? Does he even know this law exists? Musn't we make sure that the person in question falls within the law's jurisdiction? Don't all Bambaras. Thus. or." a natural truth. that is to say. then. His Shrink. to try to affiliate him to their own group. Between the crime and the author of the crime. do let him in. But jurists have two advantages over psychiatrists and psychologists in treating the cases of immigrants: first. His Judge. but by an almost visceral tie that binds him to the bamanan. experts. For a jurist. What. whereas psychiatrists and psychologists handle one truth "in and of itself. we are faced with a paradox: legal experts require. have a tendency to make any trace of a "representative" of the group of the other disappear. the judge must insert motives. when they. defense attorneys.

He didn't know why. in French. like the judge. His Social Worker.The Immigrant. Of the five youths. calling his great aunt mother and her husband. Bachir became a little Moroccan boy. He hadn't been alone. a name originally meant for the eldest. others had been with him. how can he be helped to formulate his own meaning regarding Bachir? I only have at my disposal descriptions of behaviors based on the young man's own words. I would learn later that when the father called home to announce the birth of his first son. Am I to base myself on attitudes. secretive. The policemen interrogated him for three days before he confessed. When he was six or seven. father. And there you have it. He barely seemed to notice me through a cloud of confused preoccupations. . He had been a bit on edge. did well. The father had wanted to give this name—Bachir—to his firstborn. a sleepy way of carrying himself. Bachir did not want to hear of leaving with his father. I had been called upon as an expert. I hardly dare ask him: how can this event be explained? I wait for an answer . on behaviors? What can I say? Should I speak of. bear witness to whatever forces were working in him?" Bachir was born in France. a child. the second son of a Moroccan father and a Portuguese mother. he would give the name Soliman to his next born. a little. He literally had to kidnap him. sometimes. his father came to take him back to France. calculate the anxieties of separation? Call Spitz. a perfectly smooth face. speaking Arabic. he grew up in France. Does he ever think about the dead man? Yes. the father promised that if his son were freed. or Harlow to the rescue? Should I take advantage of the situation to put forward my own theories? Can I honestly base what I am saying on his mood. One day when his brother had appeared in court. He still wanted to make good on his promise. discrete. Since then. He was separated a first time from his foster mother at the age of two and from his nanny at seven. His Shrink. His Judge. expressed himself well. he is the one to have held out the longest. A CASE STUDY I first met Bachir when he was in prison and. . He forgot Arabic. but finally decided to give him another. and the boy who was just born was his first grandson. more or less. He had stabbed a man. But the old man had had no more children. They had all taken part. He was fourteen years old. So this is why the eldest son—the old man's grandson—was called Soliman. in school. nothing! I think: "What good is it to ask him questions? How can he. Twice he changed languages. his gestures. What other elements are needed to draw up an evaluation? How can motives be communicated to the judge. had light-colored eyes. And this is how Bachir became Bachir. and the youngest Bachir. to whom he was about to give the name Bachir. his own father asked him to call the boy Soliman. Bachir's father took him back to Marocco when he was two. There. his behavior dur- 317 . and placed him with his own aunt. Bowlby. smiling.

Because he had been very troublesome as a child. .12 The young man sits down near his father. Bachir is silent and looks at his father. suffocating him. too. The father is the only one of eight children to have emigrated. after an hour and a half of discussion. Today. As we speak about these things of the past. he fell seriously ill and it was believed he would die. . "The son is not as far gone as the father . of Berber orgin. The father says that he himself was not religious. he decided. A taleb told his mother to go on a pilgrimage-on foot. He fled. The idea seemed to be that he occupied a special place in the eyes of God and that he didn't deserve the treatment he had gotten.The Immigrant." The underlying idea is naturally that a supernatural force—God or one of his emissaries-comes to him just as Gabriel had come to the prophet. ing the meeting that I had with him? Do they have any life beyond the time and space of the interview? How can I decide if they are not simply reactions to my presence. when he was two years hold. One day he was caught misbehaving and was tied up and suspended from the ankles in front of the others before being beaten with a stick on the soles of his feet. startled. in his dreams sees himself slow down to the point where he can barely move. about the homeland. his home town. that Bachir finally begins to talk. His Shrink. The entire family believed this pilgrimage to have saved his life. wide-eyed. His Social Worker. he can still move. carrying the child on her shoulders-to a shrine located some 100 kilometers from their home. He wakes up. even to'my personality? Fate had it that a few months later a temporary parole enabled me to receive Bachir with his parents for a long ethnopsychiatric consultation. and remains for half an hour or so in his bed. his eyes wide with surprise. to the point where he is almost paralyzed." 318 . Second. a Portuguese orphan. A few moments later he says that the problems of his teen years had been preceded by two remarkable events: first. After having had several small jobs in cafes and hotels. He knows exactly what to call this event: abougbetat. His Judge. Bachir and his father belong to an old family of marabouts. at seventeen. a man of about forty who was visibly tornmented. literally. "father of the cover. He says that he. he had been sent as a teenager to an extremely disciplined religious Muslim boarding school. not one night goes by without his being overcome with a kind of paralysis in the middle of his dreams. to go to France and take his chances there." It is only then. he consistently had nightmares in which he saw the same man dressed in white come out of the night. who was also rootless after having been placed as a servant in several families. I say. when he was about seven years old. Little by little we begin to speak in Arabic. Then he must get up and doesn't manage to fall back asleep for a long time because of his confusion. He married Bachir's mother. even though he does so with great difficulty. talking about his country. but rather quickly I perceive that he has a priviliged and special relationship with God.

urgently. at any price. We have just brought into the room the living force—aboughetat-and its possible representatives—talebs. SOME THEORETICAL AND TECHNICAL REMARKS TO CONCLUDE Since we must. We tell him then that he must absolutely. We can no longer think of him as a "psychopath. those professionals who are mandated by the group to control the ties with this power. a place described by Isabelle Stengers. His Social Worker." In fact. Now we need only to inform Bachir and his father of this." Another adds: "Or that he was sent to his father because his father did not know how to receive the messages that the hidden powers were sending to him. both of my children were born on a Friday. make the authorized representative of the group appear. it is indispensable for the session to take place as much as possible in the patient's language and according to his way of doing things. His Judge." What can we say about our profession other than that it forces us into a place that is already known to the professionals of the intermonde.The Immigrant. In other words. "I have the feeling that Bachir is older than his father. And by what miracle did this occur? Simply by the fact that we convoked the representatives of his group and. "the day of the Mosque"—yam et gem'aa—"the day of assembly. the hour of the disappearance of shadows. Thus we are obliged to describe the therapeutic exchange as communication from group to group. "On what day was Bachir born?" "On a Friday! I remember it well! In fact.14 It is just as indispensable for the nodal point of the treatment of the patient to be an understanding of his problem according to the logic and the objects of the therapists of his group—the only true representatives of the concepts of a given universe. in a very intense dynamic movement." Father and son look at one another. Later she will tell me. its adversity and its greatness: • the place of the diplomat. We ask him. "That was the first time I saw the father react like that. in so doing. His Shrink." It's safe to say that from that point on Bachir became "recoverable. I catch a glimpse of emotion in the social worker's eye. pay a visit [ziara] to the shrine and make an offering in Bachir's name. cheikhs. who knew so well how to discover its true nature. One of my cotherapists says." Friday: in Arabic. prepsychotic and immature. and fkihs—capable of controlling it. "At noon. the adjectives that professionals were attributing to him suddenly become unsuited to him. a network that the judge will in fact be able to use. from representative to representative." We ask him the time of birth." he responds." Another network of meaning is suddenly revealed to us. the hour when ihejnoun come out into the human world. it becomes the only way to avoid the sadistic condescension of the advocates of "good medicine for everyone.'11 319 . we recognized his affiliation. Noon.

de Pury-Toumi. Devereux. a scientist introduced himself to me in the most wonderful way. un style. revised by Maisonneuve and Geuthner (1984). who. His Shrink. see Gilles Deleuze. 4. 5. while alive.' to which I responded. organized. I am beer yeast chromosome eleven. and on the other a single individual who hasn't at his disposal the least means of integrating himself into the network. if only in homage to Bruno Latour's remarkable work on Pasteur: Les microbes: guerre et paix. The Bambaras' lives are filled with narratives where patients move from therapist to therapist until they arrive at the boli. September 1995. For a description of the main techniques of ethnopsychiatric consultation. It still remains to be seen whether the concepts used within the human sciences deserve the name "concepts-especially those at the origin of social and professional practices.. but the group. even in an isolated niche. I am Bruno Latour!'" In "Note sur certains objets chevelus. 1970). Recherche MIRE/DEP. 1994). Cl. Qu'est-ce que la philosophie (Paris: Minuit. we recall here the president of Benin. See G. was immediately cured. quelle sottise c'était. But we hate to think of ourselves as members of a group. and E. 93235. Magie et religion dans l'Afrique du Nord (1908). "there is neither crime nor misdemeanor" is the person is recognized to have been insane at the rime of committing the acts." 3." 8. and Tobie Nathan: Rapport de recherche. 1993). Principes d'ethnopsycbanalyse (Grenoble: Editions de la Pensée Sauvage. une science. 6. Mesmin. and Ethnopsychanalyse complémentariste (Paris: Flammarion. structured. saying: 'Hello. These are indeed the point of origin out. to conquer entire areas of social reality. 1972). 1991): Deleuze quote. don't we? So what are we doing here. Essais d'ethnopsychiatrie générale (Paris: Gallimard. For the meaning of the word "fetish. Convention no. especially the chapter entitled "L'identité ethnique. 2. after his death. His Social Worker." Nouvelle revue d'ethnopsychiatrie 27 (1994): 21-36. Doutte. A network. 320 . complex. 10. A kind of saint who." forthcoming from Les empêcheurs de penser en rond. allows them to be cured. (Paris: A-M Metaille. How do we get back symmetry. See E. before returning to the forest to be treated by voduns. Ethnie.The Immigrant. During a study that I did recently at the Pasteur Institute. Au coeur de l'ethnie. 9. like armies. forbid us!-from thinking about an immigrant's suffering without reference to his own group. 1985). together. and circulates Muslim doctrine and whose gravesite becomes. Du role des entretiens en langue maternelle dans l'interaction avec les familles migrantes et notamment de leurs benéfices dans insertion scolaire et sociale des enfants et des adolescents. because we are all ourselves a group! Not the group. 1954). a site of pilgrimmage and therapeutic cults. And here I am using a somewhat parodied version of one of Bruno Latour's examples: "Let's take a very simple example. 11. but its representatives. heals. 12. and. M'Bokolo. This is why I call them here "banner-concepts.. L. 'Hello. see my Fier de n 'avoir ni pays ni amis. 10." see Bruno Latour's interesting. armed to the teeth on one side. And I dare. since we are all nothing more than representatives. reportedly. ses bases logiques et ses dysfonctions. For the notion according to which a concept is a created object and the fabrication of concepts the main activity of philosophers. Anselle and E. the interlocutor is not the person. and problematic discussion "Du culte moderne des dieux fétiches. and Pasteur. His Judge." that moral should forbid us-yes. . This paper is a revised version of an article that appeared in 1996 in Melanpous: Revue des juges des enfants. If our profession could be said to have a "moral. tribalisme et états en Afrique (Paris: La découverte. See J. un siècle (Paris: Perrin. The power relations are just too unequal. balance? It is enough to understand that in a particular case. See Ismael Maiga's comments in S. 1984). Also. Le culte des saints dans l'Islam maghrebin (Paris: Gallimard. who was hospitalized in Paris right after he was elected. talking about all this? —translated by Alyson Waters Notes 1. equipped. Dernebghem. According to Article 64. 7. having put them back into contact with their fetish.

Ecologie des pratiques. His Social Worker. 321 . squeezing the prophet until he begins to suffocate. 15. crying "liera" "Read!" But Mohammed did not know how to read. See my L'influence qui guérit (Paris: Odile Jacob. His Judge. The third time.The Immigrant. Gabriel squeezes the prophet until he begins to suffocate him and presents him with the Koran. Mohammed begins to read. 13. Isabelle Stengers. His Shrink. 1994). Twice the angel asks the same question. 14.

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