Nisha Rathode (Editor)

Lene Auestad

Updated on
Share on FacebookTweet on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Reddit
Name  Lene Auestad

Books  Respect, Plurality, and Prejudice: A Psychoanalytical and Philosophical Enquiry Into the Dynamics of Social Exclusion and Discrimination

Lene Auestad is an author and a philosopher from the University of Oslo. She has written on the themes of prejudice, social exclusion and minority rights, and has contributed to public debates on hate speech. The book Respect, Plurality, and Prejudice combined critical theory with psychoanalysis and psychosocial studies, examining the underlying unconscious forces and structures that make up the phenomena of xenophobia, Antisemitism, Islamophobia, homophobia and sexism. It provides a nuanced, detailed overview of how social prejudices, and the discrimination and violence that often tend to accompany the latter, come into being. At the same time the author demonstrated that in order to fully understand how a complex phenomenon such as prejudice works, we need to alter our traditional Western philosophical understanding of the subject as a supposedly fully rational, autonomous and individual agent. Auestad argues that we need a more situated and relational understanding of subjectivity and the subject, as prejudice and acts of discrimination always take place in a contextualized setting between subjects whose thoughts and actions influence each other. Unlike more conservative forms of philosophy, Auestad examines the processes that make up prejudice from both a theoretical and practical point of view. This becomes especially clear in the book’s seventh chapter, in which she reads critical theorist Theodor W. Adorno’s The Authoritarian Personality (1950)—together with some of Adorno’s other work—along the lines of object-relations theory. This attachment to critical theory—and to the work of for instance queer theorist Judith Butler and political theorist Hannah Arendt, and Butler’s thoughts about hate speech, and in Arendt’s case, perspectivism and pluralism, in particular— reveals how much Auestad is invested in analysing prejudice and discrimination not as isolated but societal phenomena that need to be critically examined and also fought against. The work navigates between subjectivism in psychoanalysis and situationism in sociology that would each in its own way deny how psychic and emotional interiority and sociocultural exteriority become mutually complicit from setting to setting in buttressing the specific inter-subjective molds around which prejudices form as social forces. Auestad shows how the self-conceptions of those subjected to it become maimed, but she also illustrates the societal costs that must be paid as a consequence of distorted human relationships. In doing so, she demonstrates how contingent conceptions of social status and group standing permeate and secure what becomes misconstrued as “reality.” Auestad shows how unconscious fantasy and representations form, combine, and recombine in ways directly relevant to a theoretical interpretation of the psychodynamics of prejudice. The import is to reveal how silent codes of social consensus and cultural conviction in prejudice may be explained through psychoanalytic theory within the contexts of psychosocial analysis.


Lene Auestad Lene Auestad LeneAuestad Twitter

Auestad (2014) has written persuasively about the rise of nationalism in European countries, both in terms of its expression in extreme far-right groups and in the context of everyday political language and policy. See also and

Auestad (2012) suggested that psychoanalysis can be used to think about the invisible and subtle processes of power over symbolic representation, for example, in the context of stereotyping and dehumanization. She suggests that thinking psychoanalytically about the nature of social exclusion involves self-questioning on the part of the interpreter, whether this is the practitioner, the researcher, or the therapist. Auestad poses the question of what forces govern the states of affairs that determine who is an 'I' and who is an 'it' in the public sphere.

She founded and runs the international and interdisciplinary conference series Psychoanalysis and Politics, which aims to address how contemporary political issues may be analyzed through psychoanalytic theory and vice versa – how political phenomena may reflect back on psychoanalytic thinking.


  • Traces of Violence and Freedom of Thought. co-edited with Amal Treacher Kabesh. Focuses on the workings of violence and power. All the articles work within a psychosocial framework by unsettling the boundaries between psyche-social. Four themes are addressed: violence of speech, violence and domination, repetition and violence, and the possibility of reparation or renewal. The articles point to the fusion of temporalities and argue that the past persists in the present. Forthcoming from Palgrave Macmillan in 2017.
  • Shared Traumas, Silent, Loss, Public and Private Mourning. Aims to question the junctions of the private and the public when it comes to trauma, loss and the work of mourning, notions which, it is argued, challenge our very notions of the individual and the shared. It asks, to paraphrase Adorno: What do we mean by ‘working through the past’? Published by Karnac in 2017
  • Respect, Plurality, and Prejudice: A Psychoanalytical and Philosophical Enquiry into the Dynamics of Social Exclusion and Discrimination Published by Karnac in 2015.
  • Nationalism and the Body Politic: Psychoanalysis and the Rise of Ethnocentrism and Xenophobia (Karnac 2014), which aims to question the recent revival of neo-nationalist policies in the light of what unconscious fantasies are involved in these developments. It examines both recent movements of right-wing extremism and the way in which rearticulated neo-ethnic ideas have been adopted by mainstream politicians and in mainstream public discourse.
  • Psychoanalysis and Politics: Exclusion and the Politics of Representation (Karnac 2012), which poses the question of how psychoanalysis can be used to think about the invisible and subtle processes of power over symbolic representation, in the context of stereotyping and dehumanization: What forces govern the state of affairs that determine who is an 'I' and who is an 'it' in the public sphere?
  • Handling, frihet, humanitet. Møter med Hannah Arendt (Action, Freedom, Humanity. Encounters with Hannah Arendt), co-edited with Helgard Mahrdt, was published by Akademika, Trondheim in 2011.
  • Select articles

  • Auestad, L. (2015) Basic trust and alienation or “we have nothing to reproach ourselves with” Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society, Volume 20, Issue 4, pp 326–342.
  • Auestad, L. (2011) Splitting, attachment and instrumental rationality. A re-view of Menzies Lyth's social criticism. Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society
  • Volume 16, Issue 4, pp. 394–410.

  • Auestad. L. (2011). To Think or Not to Think. A Phenomenological and Psychoanalytic Perspective on Experience, Thinking and Creativity. Cliopsy, 6, 15-23.
  • Interviews

    In English: About the book, Respect, Plurality, and Prejudice, podcast on New Books in Psychoanalysis 11 September 2015 [1]

    About hate speech: "Fierce online debate brings more prejudice" Alpha Galileo 13 September 2013 [2]

    About the conference series Psychoanalysis and Politics "Introducing Psychoanalysis and Politics" in Journal of Psycho-Social Studies Volume 7 (1) 2013 [3]

    in Swedish: •Lene Auestad, Iréne Matthis and Diana Mulinari: Vad ska vi med psykoanalysen till? (What do we need psychoanalysis for?) in the journal Fronesis, special issue on the psyche, (psyket)no.44-45 2013 [4]

    in Spanish: Encuentro en la SEP del grupo Psychoalysis and Politics (The Spanish Psychoanalytical Society’s encounter with Psychoanalysis and Politics) Interview with Lene Auestad and Jonathan Davidoff by the Spanish psychoanalysts Neri Daurella and Eileen Wieland, on the Spanish Society’s webpages, (in Spanish) [5]


    Lene Auestad Wikipedia