Reading Lacan: Structure, Ideology, and Identity

Dissertation, University of Massachusetts Amherst (2003)

This dissertation explores the import of Lacan's theory in critical cultural studies and examines its special contributions to an understanding of structure, ideology, and identity, especially concerning about relevant issues of ideology and identity in the condition of postmodernity. Although terms of contemporary postmodernism, such as cultural diversity and heterogeneous ideological formation, have entered our language, together with their legal and political imports, many theoretical questions and difficulties in fact still remain. By focusing on the theoretical discussion, this project tries to examine how Lacan's thinking, with philosophical and conceptual nuances, offers an alternative to reconsidering the issues of epistemological questionability and postmodernist skepticism, and the way a structure for him is formed. In addition, Lacan's formulation of psychoanalytic theory is specially illuminating in reading the notions of ideology and identity, since the psychoanalytic notion of unconscious can provide more comprehensive accounts of psychic economy that resides at the deepest level of human reality. As this work presents, Lacanian conceptual tools---such as desire, fantasy, and anxiety---constitute a new plane, a non-discursive dimension beyond the discursive discussions in widespread debates over ideology and identity. In considering cultural phenomenon in contemporary "politics of identity," this study also investigates the political significance of Lacanian thinking through which current issues on multiculturalism, racism, and fundamentalism can be properly explained
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