A particular epistemology of trauma has come to dominate psychoanalysis: trauma, we uncritically accept, is of destructive, if not catastrophic effects. So mesmerised are we by this epistemology that suggesting it is not a factual accounting of how trauma works but rather one paradigm amid possible others sounds strange. But what if we got this wrong? What if trauma is not a piece of shrapnel to be removed, but a cause of becoming?

In this presentation, Dr Ari Saketopoulou puts pressure on the influential psychoanalytic fiction that ghosts of the past can be durably turned into ancestors. Characterising current approaches to trauma as traumatophobic, she identifies the serious clinical limitations, political dead-ends, and ethical blockages of traumatophobic thinking. In contrast, she introduces the concept of traumatophilia, showing how iterative returns to the site of the traumatic have the potential to re-open trauma, putting its stalled energies back into circulation. At stake in traumatophilia is a revivification of trauma, a courting of psychic energies that can prove transformative. For transformation to be possible, however, we need to be working with a notion of psychic life that can be transformed.

Taking as her case study the controversial sexual fetish of race play, Dr Saketopoulou illustrates how traumatophilia works. Her analysis reveals how traumatophobic logics generate and preserve new forms of racism: these new forms, while drawing on rhetorics of anti-racism, actually deny psychic complexity and autonomy to racialised subjects. Prying our attention away from the preoccupation with repairing racial trauma, traumatophilia invites us to consider what traumatised subjects may do with their trauma. Questions of ethics are central to this presentation, which is grounded in queer of color critique, Black feminisms, and Laplanchean metapsychology.


Dr. Avgi Saketopoulou is a Cypriot and Greek psychoanalyst based in New York. She is on faculty at the NYU Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis, where she also trained, and teaches in other psychoanalytic institutes, such as the William Alanson White Institute. Her published work has received several awards including the JAPA Essay Prize and the Ruth Stein Prize and her interview on relational psychoanalysis is in the permanent collection of the Freud Museum in Vienna. She is recipient of the first Tiresias Essay Prize from the IPA's Sexual and Gender Diversities Studies Committee for her co-authored essay with Dr. Ann Pellegrini, which will be included in a Gender Without Identity, coming out in Spring 2023 from the Unconscious in Translation Press. Her monograph, Sexuality Beyond Consent: Risk, Race.

Traumatophilia from which ideas for this presentation derive, is published by the Sexual Cultures Series, NYU Press.

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Friday 31 March 2023 

18:00 – 20:00 BST 

Westminster Quakers Meeting House, 8 Hop Gardens, off Saint Martin’s Lane London WC2N 4EA 

Tickets £10 for Site members and Site trainees; £15 for general public