Visual Cultures Public Programme: ‘Culture as the Bad Object’

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesPublic Engagement – Public lecture/debate/seminar


How might Ronald Fairbairn’s object-relations theory enable a different framework for thinking psychosocially? How can we creatively reintroduce and apply Fairbairn’s relational thinking, which has remained on the periphery, into psychosocial inquiry? In this talk, I explore these questions by extending Fairbairn’s original concepts, such as ‘moral defence’ (1943), ‘endopsychic structure’ (1944), and ‘object-relatedness’ (1946), to examine the impacts of the UK’s Hostile Environment on the lived realities of individuals and communities at the intersection of culture, politics, and society. Through a psychosocial lens, I explore how the reactionary populism that produces and sustains anti-immigration and anti-refugee policies can be understood as forces of violence that are internalized into the psychic reality of minority groups. The Hostile Environment, in the Fairbairnian sense, can be seen as constituting the ‘bad object’ in the social dimension, which is "too disruptive and threatening to the ongoing relationship with the object to remain in awareness" (Celani, 2007, p. 123). Furthermore, I explore how the Hostile Environment, as a ‘bad object’, simultaneously embodies a rejecting outlook against the racialized other and a tantalising cultural ideal of ‘whiteness’. To shed light on internalised racism as a psychic defence against the anti-immigration culture as the bad object, I interweave a personal, reflexive account with theoretical explorations.
Period30 Mar 2023
Event typeSeminar
LocationLondon, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational