January 14th 2017, Somerville Public Library (Turkish)
This morning, I wrote this short text About my situation to read here in the first Boston Lacan Study Group meeting of 2017. I will also send it as an e-mail afterwards.
I’m going to make the briefest and most abstract comment about what I went through: I’m just going to state the three criteria that weren’t met by my university group and conclude with a quote on Lacan.
I think these criteria are relevant because (1) it’s highly probable that these problems are already being brought to you in the clinic by students, by postdocs and researchers like me, and even by the professors themselves, and (2) these criteria are my reasons to favour this Lacanian group over the “research” group in the university.
I already wrote a 55-page Boston Report in the weeks following my resignation, that the professor forced me into, and I’m planning to translate it from Turkish into English when I have the time, primarily for the Lacanians here. It’s a general assessment after the fact, so I would call it a “postmortem”, borrowing this term from digital game design practice (and not from medicine or forensics).
Firstly, the fields of studies involved: In my PhD in İstanbul, Turkey, I studied Bayesian probabilistic models, and applied these statistical models to bioinformatics. Approximately one year ago, I was invited to be a postdoc here in Boston and the field is BCI: brain-computer interfaces. They are working on a system for typing through EEG brain signals, electroencephalograms triggered by a sequence of letters displayed on a computer screen. In the literature, there’s a famous brain signal called P300 that is triggered like a surprise in observing “deviant stimulus”, called “oddball”.
Even though my engagement there eventually led to a forced resignation, I have been making several points to myself and others through this experience, and I conceive this resignation as an inevitable outcome of a Lacanian separation, whose only alternative was to supposedly “actively participate” and to supposedly “become a productive member” (to use the professor’s own words) of an alienation, a sickness.
As a side note: I think the conflict here can be traced all the way back to the foundation of psychoanalysis. As you know, the alternative that emerged in Freud and Breuer’s studies on hysteria, was interpretation and free association as opposed to suggestions and hypnotization. And it’s the same alternative that is at stake in my conflict, and in the criteria that emerged from this conflict.
For the three criteria I will mention, I think the best testing ground is e-mail communications, because that’s where people express the content of their symbolic castration. Institutional e-mail correspondences have a tendency to turn into a fictional world of a supposed “Progress” so that everything else may only function as a number of excuses to justify and maintain this symbolic fiction of “Progress”, divorced from reality.
First criterion: Can people relate to each other as colleagues? Or, is their potential communication undermined, debased, sabotaged by some absurd interventions and a number of impulsive interruptions by those who are considered the authorities, who are called “professors”? It is crucial that there is a possibility to relate as colleagues, if the notion of “career” is to make any kind of sense.
Second criterion linked to the first one: Are people able to inform each other? Or, is their communication externally regulated and channelized through requests and reports, in essence, through suggestions? This is a critical criterion especially because: when people aren’t able to inform one another about their experience and their environment, they are also forced to ignore emergent states of urgency. To give an example from my case, a fire alarm goes off and the building gets evacuated, and this incident never gets reflected to e-mail communications. One can see that the most extreme consequence of this inability to inform is the climate change.
Third criterion. (This is linked to the second one and it’s not included in the Boston Report. Maybe I should extend the report to include this one too.) Is there a circulation of demonstrations among the people, i.e. can people make themselves into a medium to circulate demonstrations? Demonstration here refers to any kind of symbolic articulation, e.g. a proof or a formulation that takes part in a reasoning. Or, are all demonstrations requested by the so-called “professors”? Instead, are demonstrations made for them, to them? This is indeed the most important criterion that could have rendered the group a properly scientific community. But it was and still is absent.
I am going to Turkey but my plan is to find a job and move to Europe. When I wrote the 55-page report, simultaneously, I also wrote a long and elaborate job application to a center of ethics in Sweden. I may apply elsewhere depending on their response.
I am going to attend BLSG virtually next month and afterwards.
Let me conclude with a quote from Roudinesco about Lacan:
In Boston, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Lacan met Roman Jakobson again and spoke before an audience of mathematicians, linguists, and philosophers, among them Willard Quine and Noam Chomsky… Lacan scandalized everyone with his answer to a question by Chomsky on thought:
“We think we think with our brains; personally, I think with my feet. That’s the only way I really come into contact with anything solid. I do occasionally think with my forehead, when I bang into something. But I’ve seen enough electroencephalograms to know there’s not the slightest trace of a thought in the brain.”
When he heard this, Chomsky thought the lecturer must be a madman.