New book by Professor Ilan Kapoor uses psychoanalysis to examine development studies

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Ilan Kapoor
Ilan Kapoor

York University Professor Ilan Kapoor has published a new book in the field of psychoanalytic development studies.

The book, Confronting Desire: Psychoanalysis and International Development (Cornell University Press), was published Sept. 15 and offers a new way of analyzing the problems, challenges and potentialities of international development.

Kapoor, a professor of critical development studies in the Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change, applies psychoanalytic perspectives to key themes, concepts and practices underlying the development enterprise and makes a compelling case for examining development’s unconscious desires, and in the process inaugurates a new field of study: psychoanalytic development studies.

Drawing from the work of Jacques Lacan and Slavoj Žižek, as well as from psychoanalytic postcolonial and feminist scholarship, Kapoor analyzes how development’s unconscious desires “speak out,” most often in excessive and unpredictable ways that contradict the outwardly rational declarations of its practitioners. He investigates development’s many irrationalities – from obsessions about growth and poverty to the perverse seductions of racism and over-consumption. By deploying key psychoanalytic concepts – enjoyment, fantasy, antagonism, fetishism, envy, drive, perversion and hysteria – Confronting Desire critically analyzes important issues in development such as growth, poverty, inequality, participation, consumption, corruption, gender, “race,” LGBTQ politics, universality and revolution.

Confronting Desire offers prescriptions for applying psychoanalysis to development theory and practice and demonstrates how psychoanalysis can provide fertile ground for radical politics and the transformation of international development.

Kapoor is the author of The Postcolonial Politics of Development and Celebrity Humanitarianism.

Order Confronting Desire: Psychoanalysis and International Development at