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"Traumatophilia and Anti-Racist Racism: On Brushing Up Against Wounds" with Avgi Saketopoulou, PsyD

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"Traumatophilia and Anti-Racist Racism: On Brushing Up Against Wounds" with Avgi Saketopoulou, PsyD

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Via Zoom
United States

Sponsored by: Alliance

This program, when participated in its entirety, is available for 4 continuing education credits.  Division 39 is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists.  Division 39 maintains responsibility for this program and its content. This presentation also meets the requirements of WAC 246-809-620 (definition of recognized categories of continuing education for licensed mental health counselors, marriage and family therapists and social workers).


A particular epistemology of trauma now dominates psychoanalysis: that trauma is of destructive if not catastrophic effects. So mesmerized are we by this epistemology that to suggest it is but one paradigm amidst possible others may sound strange. What if trauma, however, is not a piece of shrapnel to be removed, but a cause of becoming?

In this presentation, Dr. Saketopoulou puts pressure on the influential psychoanalytic fiction that ghosts can be durably turned into ancestors.  Characterizing such approaches to trauma as traumatophobic, she identifies the serious clinical limitations, political dead-ends, and ethical blockages of traumatophobic thinking.  Traumatophilia, by contrast, showshow iterative returns to the site of the traumatic have the potential to re-open trauma, putting its stalled energies back into circulation. Contact with ghostly presences, she shows, is not just a haunting but also potentially 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 new forms of racism which, while drawing on rhetorics of anti-racism, work by denying non-white subjects the psychic complexity routinely afforded to white patients.  Prying our attention away from the preoccupation with repairing racial trauma, traumatophilia invites us to consider what traumatized subjects may do with their trauma.  Questions of ethics are thus 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 the faculty at the NYU Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis, where she also trained and now teaches. Her published work has received several psychoanalytic awards, such as the annual JAPA Essay Prize, the Ruth Stein Prize, the Symonds Essay Prize, and the Ralph Roughton Award, while her interview on relational psychoanalysis is in the permanent collection of the Freud Museum in Vienna. Her essay, "A Feminine Boy: Normative Investments and Reparative Fantasy at the Intersections of Gender, Race, and Religion," co-authored with Dr. Ann Pellegrini, received the first Tiresias Essay Prize from the IPA’s Sexual and Gender Diversities Studies Committee. That work has since been published by the Unconscious in Translation Press as Gender Without Identity (2023).  Dr. Saketopoulou’s monograph, Sexuality Beyond Consent: Risk, Race, Traumatophilia (2023) is published by the Sexual Cultures Series, NYU Press.  The Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association has awarded its annual prize for 2023 to her recent essay, "Anti-Racist Racism: Trauma, Traumatism, Traumatophilia," and her forthcoming book, co-authored with Dr. Dominique Scarfone, The Reality of the Message: Psychoanalysis in the Wake of Jean Laplanche, will be released by the UIT Press in November of 2023. 

Learning Objectives:

  • Attendees will be able to discuss why notions of healing trauma and of repairing wounds is but one epistemological paradigm around trauma work
  • Attendees will be able to explain what traumatophobia is and list two ways in which a traumatophobic sensibility short-circuits clinical thinking
  • Attendees will be able to show how traumatophobia is rooted in white logics and explain why a commitment to anti-racism benefits from a capacity to thinking traumatophilically
  • Attendees will be able to list two ways in which traumatophilia opens up new paths for thinking and working with trauma, including racial trauma
  • Attendees will be able to explain how traumatophilia bears on notions of psychic freedom and psychic agency
  • Attendees will be able to compare the different models of the unconscious anchoring traumatophobia as opposed to the one undergirding traumatophilia.

Required Reading:

Saketopoulou, A.  (2019).  The draw to overwhelm: risk, limit consent and the retranslation of enigmaJournal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 67:1, 133-167.

Optional Readings:

Musser, A.  (2016).  Queering Sugar: Kara Walker’s sugar sphinx, and the intractability of black female sexualitySigns42(1), 153-174.

Chude-Sokei, L., Cruz, A., Musser, A.J., Nash, J.C., Stallings, L.H. & Wachter-Grene, K.  (2016).  Race, pornography and desire: A TBS Roundtable.  The Black Scholar46(4), 49-64.

Nash, J. C.  (2022).  The Promise of Repair: VBACs and Contemporary Feminist Political Desire.  Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, 43:2, 169–90.

​Powell, D. R.  (2020).  From the sunken place to the shitty place: The film Get Out, psychic emancipation and modern race relations from a psychodynamic clinical perspective.  Psychoanalytic Quarterly89, 415–445.

Please note: copies of some of the above readings will be sent to participants after registration; this list may be updated or revised prior to the event.

Participants: This event is designed for graduate level students in mental health and all mental health professionals from introductory to advanced levels.  The presentation is geared for clinicians who wish to advance their knowledge and expand their skill base in psychodynamic clinical work.

Refund Policy: Refunds less a $35 handling fee will be given up until three weeks before the presentation. 

This program, when participated in its entirety, is available for 4.0 continuing education credits.  Division 39 is committed to accessibility and non-discrimination in its continuing education activities.  Division 39 is also committed to conducting all activities in conformity with the American Psychological Association's Ethical Principles for Psychologists.  Participants are asked to be aware of the need for privacy and confidentiality throughout the program.  If program content becomes stressful, participants are encouraged to process these feelings during discussion periods. If participants have special needs, we will attempt to accommodate them. Please address questions, concerns and any complaints to John Allemand at  There is no commercial support for this program nor are there any relationships between the CE Sponsor, presenting organization, presenter, program content, research, grants or other funding that could reasonably be construed as conflicts of interest.  Participants will be informed of the utility/validity of the content/approach discussed (including the basis for the statements about validity/utility), as well as the limitations of the approach and most common (and severe) risks, if any, associated with the program's content.

Contact Person
John Allemand
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