This talk studies the experimental politics of anticolonial psychoanalysis undertaken at the Lafargue Clinic in Harlem from 1946-1958. Named after Karl Marx’s son-in-law and the author of Le Droit à la paresse, the clinic operated out of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church and treated patients free of charge. Its mission was as radical as it was simple: psychoanalysis and psychiatric care should be available to anyone and everyone. Those damaged by the color line and those who were poor deserved, as much as anyone else, treatment for their neuroses. Internationally famous at the time, the clinic has yet to receive the attention it deserves from political theorists and intellectual historians, even though its history is ripe with clues for understanding what it means to “decolonize the mind” in conditions of extraordinary financial duress and spatial segregation. What does psychic repair look like when the wound is as wide and deep as racism itself? What happens to the psychoanalytic encounter when neither clinic nor patient has any money? Can improving individual psyches do anything to mitigate collective structures of domination? These questions guided Lafargue Clinic’s psychotherapeutic techniques and compelled its analysts, many involved with international communism and the aesthetic avant-garde, to theorize anew “self-rule” for the psyche and the social world.

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