The Multicultural Imagination

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The Multicultural Imagination

Praise for The Multicultural Imagination

Tzvetan Todorov, author of On Human Diversity, says of The Multicultural Imagination: "Written in an engaging personal style, Adams's book tells us how our unconscious handles the 'racial' categories of black, white, or otherwise. It helps us to think about a difficult problem for which there are no easy answers."

Patricia J. Williams, author of The Alchemy of Race and Rights, calls The Multicultural Imagination a "provocative book" and identifies Adams as "a practicing psychotherapist who, in the tradition of Frantz Fanon, asserts that the concept of race is as important a part of the contemporary collective unconscious as sex."

Andrew Samuels, author of The Political Psyche, says: "The Multicultural Imagination offers something that has been missing from debates on ethnic and 'racial' difference. Adams's move from 'race' to 'raciality' is as important as the earlier move from sex to sexuality. He succeeds in utterly repositioning the unconscious as a contributor to social and political processes of healing."

The Multicultural Imagination is a psychoanalytic inquiry into the relation between "race", color, and the unconscious. Psychoanalysis has tended to ignore the importance of "race" within the unconscious. Michael Vannoy Adams investigates the unconscious origins and effects of racism or "colorism" and argues that "race" is just as important as sex or any other content of the unconscious.

Adams presents case material from patients for whom "race" or color is a vital social and political concern that impacts them personally. In the therapeutic dialogue and in dreams, these patients struggle to establish an effective individual identity in relation to whatever collective "racial" identity may have been either imposed on them or adopted by them. Adams redefines the collective unconscious to include a cultural unconscious.

The Multicultural Imagination employs a variety of psychoanalytic perspectives in both the Freudian and Jungian traditions to scrutinize such topics as the "color complex" of both whites and blacks and the opposition between the "civilized" and the "primitive."

Adams also interprets what he calls "color-change dreams" - that is, dreams in which the dreamer or another figure in the dream changes color or "racial" identity.

Adams discusses Jung's two trips to Africa in the 1920s and reinterprets Jung's nightmare in which an African-American barber "was holding a tremendous red-hot curling iron to my head, intending to make my hair kinky - that is, to give me Negro hair." Jung interprets the dream as warning him not to "go black."

This is an ego-defensive interpretation. In contrast, Adams proposes an ego-compensatory interpretation. (According to Jung, the function of the unconscious in most dreams is to compensate the partial, prejudicial, or defective attitudes of the ego.) Adams argues that Jung's nightmare is a compensation for the too "straight" attitude of his ego. The dream is not warning Jung to "stay white" but is inviting, encouraging, or challenging him to "go black," or to "go kinky" - that is, to "go other," seriously to consider and perhaps to adopt a different "style" of identity.

The Multicultural Imagination is a book that presents whites, blacks, and people of whatever color with an opportunity to develop a more constructive discourse about cultural differences and to reimagine themselves multiculturally.

Table of Contents

  1. Pluralism, Racism, and Colorism
  2. Whiteness and Blackness, Nature and Culture
  3. The Cultural Unconscious and Collective Differences
  4. Going Black, Going Primitive, Going Instinctive
  5. Jung in "Black" Africa
  6. Hair: Kinky, Straight, Bald
  7. Jung on "Race" and the Unconscious
  8. The Color Complex
  9. The Mirror of Identity
  10. Frantz Fanon and Alice Walker on Humanism and Universalism
  11. The Empathic Self: Going Other, Going Different
  12. Case Material, "Race" Material
  13. Color-Change Dreams and "Racial" Identity
  14. A Color-Change from Brown to White to Black
  15. Old Man River