Normal Conditions, Difficult Psychoanalysis: Working with Marginalised Social Movements in Brazil

Paulo Beer

Firstly, I would like to thank the College of Psychoanalysis and, in particular, Ian Parker, for the invitation and for organising an event like this in these crazy times we live in. I’m aware that the members of this college have a substantial knowledge about Brazilian psychoanalysis and also about our current political moment, given that Brazilian psychoanalysts have been invited to share their experiences with you, and also because you have Brazilian members like Vera, who is kindly chairing this session. Particularly about our political moment, I am afraid our general situation is known since, as we know, “bad news travel fast”.

So, I would like to focus my presentation on a work I have been coordinating together with some colleagues, that is called NETT (Centre for Studies and Therapeutic Practices). This project offers not only psychoanalytic treatment, but also training to social movement members. To give you a quick overview, today we have more than 20 people in our team, we hold partnerships with autonomous psychoanalysts and with institutions. And, regarding the movements we are articulated with, we might refer to the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem-Teto (MTST) [Homeless Workers Movement], the Frente Luta por Moradia [Fight for Housing Front], both squatting movements. And also Projeto Antônia [Antônia project], which supports sex workers and women who have suffered gender violence, and Amazônia Centro do Mundo [Amazon Centre of the World], which we could call a sort of “meta-movement” that reunites different groups engaged in local issues in the North of Brazil.
After this really short presentation, I’d like to comment on the title of my speech. When I talk about “normal conditions”, I intend to emphasize that even though we are talking about adverse situations it would be a mistake to think about them as some kind of exception or anomaly. There are indeed several differences between the movements and places I’ve just referred to, however they all can be considered examples of the vulnerable, violent and unassisted conditions in which the vast majority of Brazilian population lives in. Beyond that, we can consider them marginalised movements since there is an active omission by public services, omission which quickly turns into aggression as several moves from our actual politicians in power are trying to criminalise them. Again, this is not an exception, once it’s easy to recognise the criminalisation of poverty and black people in Brazil. So, adverse without a doubt, but also undeniably “normal”.

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