The relations between anthropology and Psychoanalysis: Freud and Wundt Unexpected collaboration

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SANTOS, Alan Ferreira dos [1]

SANTOS, Alan Ferreira dos – The relations between anthropology and Psychoanalysis: Freud and Wundt Unexpected collaboration. Multidisciplinary Core scientific journal of knowledge. Year 1. Vol. 6, pp. 5-14, August 2016. ISSN: 0959-2448


The relations between anthropology and psychoanalysis, has been discussed some time in academia, mainly because of the epistemological variety in both disciplines. This article is a bibliographical research of qualitative nature. Had the aim to understand how Freud reelaborou the concepts of experimental psychology Wundtiana, considering that such development provided the basis of a psychoanalytic anthropology, from this point of view we focus on disciplines as disparate as possible for something unique, as such relationships. It was concluded that such a relationship was made possible by the fact both science (psychoanalysis) and (experimental psychology) study similar object, and that despite being distinct, these assumptions not prevented investigations on the same phenomenon, but on the contrary, allowed the refinement theory and the production of investigative tools.

Keywords: Etnopsicanálise. Anthropology. Psychoanalysis.


The relations between anthropology and Psychoanalysis, from the 19th century with its creator Sigmund Freud (1856-1839) that since his letters to Fliess (1887-1902) outlines a procedure which according to anthropological Laplantine (1994) leads in texts such as Totem and taboo (1913), the future of an illusion (1927), malaise in civilization (1929) and Moses and monotheism (1938). The exchange between areas has the starting point, according to the author when the founder of psychoanalysis understands the neurotic and the primitives that the social life of our ancestors is dominated by the respect to the totem, and the psychic life of neurotic, for fear of breaking the taboo, so there is a close relationship between the "primitive" , the neurotic and the children and, by refraction, between the anthropological field and the psychoanalytic field (LAPLANTINE, 1998).

With this, assimilating aspects of peoples Staples regarding law and civil society, realize that the same setting that governs the primitive life, the civilized life, especially with regard to the neurotic and the children. Kill the totem (the father) and marry women belonging to the totem concentrate all affective ambivalence of archaic societies and children's psychic processes. And, mainly, those are the two crimes of Oedipus! So, the neurotic relationship-primitives-children can work (LAPLANTINE, 1998).

In this sense, Freud produces a subtle correspondence and at the same time insightful enlargement of psychoanalysis, not restricting only the psicopatológico field, but analyzing heading towards the core of the human Constitution, that is exactly what is the human being in its correlations both in primitive societies, as in civil, what is common between them , which favors the pathology and what its role in social relations. For writing Totem and taboo, Freud explores a considerable material borrowed from the history of religions, of magic, archaic ceremonies, but initially, and above all, of what, at the time, stands out as the most fascinating field of Anthropology: the totemismo. But Freud isn't limited to collect and regroup documents. Your requirement is a Foundation, which would unite the psychology of the child, the psychopathological processes and the social life of the "primitive". Freud understands that the goal of psychoanalysis is the universality of the proposed explanation.

With that inaugurates a new research method, where in the material relevant to clinical explanation of cultural content, as an explanation for the myths, magic, religion and art. In this sense the Freudian methodology includes in your own basement the contribution of anthropology. Is a methodology that can be qualified a methodology of matches and that, in the field of Humanities, is truly a pioneer. The depreendida connection in Totem and taboo between taboo and the obsessional neurosis will serve as a detector and epistemological model for the establishment of a whole series of other relationships: the neurosis and the magic, hysteria and the artwork, the paranoia and the philosophy. In other words, what Freud understands through the symptoms and of the most subjective and individual discourses of its customers brings what discovers, by other paths, in history, mythology, literature, religion, in the rites, customs and beliefs. In summary, there are correspondences between the processes that are operating in the psyche, which can be seized from the clinical procedure, and cultural materials collected by ethnologist (LAPLANTINE, 1998).


We have to understand the design of Freud in the creation of his work, to understand the further development, which would result in relations with other sciences, especially anthropology and sociology, remembering that the same never made distinctions of lines of thought, always keeping to what was a concrete fact, revisiting and revamping in order to produce new knowledge. Enriquez (2005) describes how Freud had an interest in psychology and the social sciences:

[…] He emphasized the originality of the psychoanalytic approach (the exploration of the unconscious processes and individuals for the purpose of treatment of neuroses) and the contributions that this new scientific perspective (and to renew his own conception of science) could offer to social sciences; with the unconscious playing a role almost always paramount and, in any case, important in all human conduct. Later, in his anthropological or sociological sayings texts, "Totem and taboo (1913/19[1912-13]96)" Moses and monotheism "(1939/1996)[1934-38], he will strive to distinguish the origins and transformations of the social bond. (ENRIQUEZ, 2005, p. 154).

In the book the psychology of the masses and the analysis I "(1921) Freud says:

Something else is invariably involved in the mental life of the individual, as a model, an object, a helper, an opponent, so that, from the beginning, the individual psychology, accordingly expanded, but entirely justified the words, is, at the same time, social psychology. (FREUD, 1996/1921, p. 81).

In this direction, it seems to us that, to understand the human being, is an impossibility if one does not understand the group. What is denoted also by psychologist Siegmund Heinz Foulkes (1898-1976) who will say that the subject is "the link of a long chain" (1978, p. 156).

We have seen so far, that there is a inclusion of Freudian thought perspective, if there is a need to leave the subject to understand it in a dynamic, occurs as a corollary the decentralization of a naturalistic design, citing Foucault:

[…] The historical significance of Freud comes, no doubt, the same impurity of their concepts: it was inside the Freudian system that produced this reversal of psychology; It was in the course of the causal analysis Freudian became genesis of meanings, that evolution gives his place in history, and that the appeal to nature is replaced by the requirement to examine the cultural milieu. (FOUCAULT, 1999, p. 129-30).

In this way the psychoanalysis, leaves a natural field of what Freud had created the "project for a scientific psychology", this is what he wanted to do "[…]structure a psychology that is a natural science" (FREUD, 1996/1895, p. 395). Heading towards a new way of thinking about the psyche and social reality, providing practical properties to other sciences, including anthropology, Schaden says:

Before psychoanalysis, there was no systematic work on the social situation and psychic phenomena of immature in primitive societies. With the advent of this theory and the concomitant establishment of a satisfactory understanding of cultural relativity on the basis of the configuracionismo, start the anthropologists, especially in · United States, observing the processes of early childhood education in various tribal societies. This innovation came against a need always felt by American Anthropology: the to toggle its status by collaboration in any practical task. It is understandable, therefore, that, once found, for psychoanalysis, the connection between the individual and socio-psychic-i.e. a-side, the standard children's experiences and, on the other, a corresponding type of personality-, not tardasse to emerge, such as Erasmus, reminiscent of transposition of a therapeutic Psychology to social therapy plan. It was the first time that if offered the opportunity, anthropologist leave the ivory tower and get introduced with purposes of application. Are obvious purposes, for example, on the contributions of Margaret Mead, noteworthy propugnadora of anthropology applied in the United States. Such is the practical guidance there developed that · Linton comes to proclaim in 1940 that the psychology and anthropology have by common purpose '' conscious control and direction of human existence. ' (SCHADEN, 1956, p. 147).

Freud made several contributions in order to constitute a theory, Monique Augras (1995) shows that the author more produced than borrowed from other anthropologists, doing something sui generis in the area. The value this exactly in form something new, allowing the exchange of various areas. Today we see biases in the field of knowledge, with various disciplines increasingly, in complete equality. Who would have thought in this day and age, a relationship between experimental psychology and psychoanalysis. Well, what we believe is that Freud prowled for all fields of knowledge and to establish its relationship to anthropology used to this, that is, the experimental psychology of Wundt (1832-1920), statements like this "psychoanalysis is a part of Psychology" (FREUD, 1996, p. 286) [1927]and that Wundt would first bridge linking experimental psychology to psychoanalysis "(FREUD , 1996, p. 39) a[1914]re varied when Freud does the beginning of psychoanalysis and their relationships, says until their science would be the "League" between psychiatry and the branches of the mental Sciences (FREUD, 1[1926]996, p. 307), second Augras:

Freud published the series of four tests, which then brought together under that title, in the magazine Imago, stimulated-says-by the work of the "Zurich school" (read Jung) and by the work of Wundt. (AUGRAS, 1995, p. 4).

The father of psychoanalysis makes some adjustments of the experimental concepts to psychoanalysis, aiming to get greater precision, but perceives a dichotomy in his time trying to overcomes her:

Wundt wants to explain the social psychology by individual psychology (not Analytics), and Jung wants to do otherwise using material derived from the social psychology to the problems of individual psychology. Freud intends to offer anthropologists a way to overcome dissensions, through a psychoanalytic hypothesis that allows unifying the contradictory information and even open new paths to understanding the man. (ibid, p. 5).

Antipodes ideas became a problem to be solved and not denied, nevertheless, in the present, becomes a chaos to produce knowledge, without which the various imiscua approaches his own produce. Every minute a new "Science", or an "anthropological" look. It is very common nowadays such polarization, "know", which could be elaborated by various areas with epistemological coherence, borrowing from many fields, today it is unthinkable. We have every individual with a new science research or discovery methodology, but this is not restricted to psychology or anthropology, is all areas (within the Humanities).

The process of knowledge, towards a rigorous science, seem out of date according to the current discourse, which says: the science is "on", the reality is the "perception of the subject" and the "phenomenon occurred", so the large structures of thought are lost. The psychoanalytic science could only settle in the mid-twentieth century, exactly by the discoveries of psychological determinants, the pathology called hysteria, is less found today than before, but its psychic operation is the same, the logic of libido, the psychic cathexis, objetal instances and other psychological mechanisms are in force, because they are biological life and mental constituents of human beings.

What produced the their way and Wundt who called experimental psychology, now call Behavioral Neuroscience, it's interesting how Freud intercalates conceptions, not only yours, but also from their students, like Carl g. Jung (1875-1961), Ferenczi (1873-1933), Melanie Klein (1882-1960) and other "Freud incorporates large number of references taken from the young generation of psychoanalysts his disciples, such as Ferenczi, Alexander , Reik, m. Klein "(AUGRAS, 1995, p. 1).

Take, for example the way in which Freud reelaborou the concept of projection:

[…] the concept of projection, that for Wundt was necessarily linked to negative feelings of fear and danger, and that Freud extends to assert his ambivalence. The characteristic of the taboo is precisely designate an object as being, at the same time, feared and desirable. Starting from Wundt, Freud is opposed to certain conceptions of the master of Leipzig, for soon after, in vigorous synthesis, recover the concept of projection, establishing the analogy between the social process and individual defence mechanisms. Introducing the desire as Formator of the taboo, Freud, however, give another dimension to the wundtiana projection, with the incorporation of sexual motivation. (ibid, p. 6).

Freud develops a concept has it, from an existing one, the contrast is sharp, Wundt experimental psychologist and Freud a "subjectivist" equal is called the critical current, while both being of different fields, this was not the way to new discoveries. It is important to note that what was common among both was the object of research, i.e. "mental processes".

However, that didn't even told by Augras (1995) it is known today that at the time there was a tremendous reacionarismo within the anthropology and psychoanalysis, on account of the inferences, but who later was accepted substantially for most of the intellectuals "is curious to note how many efforts were made by both anthropologists and psychoanalysts, for, at the same time, consider Totem and taboo mere fable , and rescue however all your propositions "(AUGRAS, p. 4).

We still have difficulties with universal models, just like said before, about the different approaches, still makes it difficult to have a dialogue with the other knowing, because "Occurs, however, that most contemporary anthropologists doubts the existence of generic models and timeless" (AUGRAS, p. 4).

Such an impasse does not prevent new concepts and reformulations are made and which mainly exploration and empirical research is updated, but without losing the essence, that is the generalization found in natural objects.


When considering the relationship between anthropology and psychoanalysis, which is no easy task, even on behalf of several authors in the field today, it is important to understand that this relationship was so comprehensive, the own work of Freud has numerous references, why knowledge is thus, from the earlier probes, subsequent affirmative , which is important both to give priority to those who have already made the discoveries and even, to prevent the unnecessary production of something that already exists.

What if intended to demonstrate is how Freud interacted with another field of psychology, which is the experimental, where concepts of "stimulus" were ch[…]anged to "" reaction formation "because he has conscience oppose actually both chains" (AUGRAS, 1995, p. 4).

In addition, we realize that the concept of projection was rewritten by getting a new sense and incorporating new findings regarding the Constitution of human being. Such a symbiotic relationship "and fruitful, should be rescued even to understand what's going on in the field of anthropology, which changes the pattern of meeting of" analysis of the phenomenon "as a means of discovering other, for" a look at the phenomenon ", in this sense not extracts contents of the collected material, but only" look "for him, that is, describes the object. What complicates even more, because it confuses "description" with "theory", at the "crisis of explanatory paradigms". This is evident, so that according to Husserl (1859-1938):

[…] I thought this scheme that distinguishes descriptive and explanatory science science-theoretical-needed by Brentano and Dilthey with regard to psychology-do not find effective application. Yes, starting from the critique of "prejudging" naturalist and physicist who was the basis of all psychology of his time, Husserl pointed to the concept of experience, covering the animist and somatic aspects lived human. And, as to the nature of interpretation, considered that the distinction between descriptive and explanatory disciplines makes them dichotomies, not taking into account the ôntico Foundation that unites them. (Husserl 1976[1954], p. 250-1 apud RAFFAELLI, 2002, p. 4).

Another explicit thinking on the subject, is in Claude Lévi-Strauss (1908-2009:

[…] to watch, you need to be outside. It can be – and is an option – you prefer (but is this possible?) merged in the community with which we share the existence, to identify with her. The knowledge is there. Then only knowledge is born of distance between subject and object. Is one aspect. Secondly, will strive to join them. There would be no knowledge possible if not distinguíssemos both times; but the originality of ethnographic research is that incessant shuttle. (STRAUSS, 2005, p. 218).

Therefore, even though there's dissent in the field of knowledge, which in a way is important, equal demonstrated previously (Freud rebuilding concepts of other authors and producing new ones) on the other end, becoming unsuccessful, by the fact that, when we established no general facts as science (and these being constituents of a theory), open spaces for uninformed speculation General and ethnographic daria in ethnology and finally in anthropology. When not done, got in the operation of the singular to universal i.e. use a case and generalizamos and not the other way around that would be suitable, as indeed did Freud:

We hear often that science should be structured in basic concepts clear and well defined. In fact, no science, nor even the most exact, starts with such definitions. The real beginning of scientific activity is before the description of the phenomena, passing then to your group, their classification and their correlation. (FREUD, 1996/1915, p. 137).

The process is progressive, ranging from smallest to largest, in this case we would have to have a number of unique research that would form an ethnographic material, finding the similarities the (essential), we could develop a conclusion and therefore a theory, having the ability to be so widespread, as was proven in advance their scientific validity by means of natural objects, which contains general information about yourself :

Only after a more thorough investigation of the field of observation, we are able to formulate his basic scientific concepts with progressively higher accuracy, modifying them to become useful and consistent within a wide area. So, in fact, perhaps this is the time to confine them in settings. The advancement of knowledge, however, does not tolerate any stiffness, including when it comes to definitions. (FREUD, 1996/1915, p. 137).

Freud wants to uncover what's behind the apparent, because this also show, hide "psychoanalysis doesn't want something else to discover correlations, leading what is patent to what is hidden" (FREUD, 1996/1913, p. 138).

At most, we could say that the legitimacy of the anthropological field is lost when the proliferation of knowledge without a strict research methodology, and that the rescue of the old partnerships as Freud and Wundt as methodological model is imperative, not to copy them, because the object of both search changed to go from 100 years ago, but his way of doing science , privileging the search status not of "a look" or "object" representation but rather the validity of scientific discovery in general terms, maybe this is a chance of solving our problem.


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[1] Alan Ferreira dos Santos – degree in psychology from the University of São Paulo. Email:


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