Samuele Collu

Assistant Professor

Ph.D University of California, Berkeley (2016)

My research is at the intersection of medical/psychological anthropology, critical media studies, and affect theory. In Argentina and North America, I ask how psychotherapeutic practices, from clinical hypnosis to couple’s therapy, participate in the making and unmaking of psychic life. In therapeutic settings, I explore how affective attachments to social imaginaries, from romantic love to social media, foster abusive relationships that significantly impact contemporary mental health.

My book manuscript, Into the Loop: Affect, Therapy, and Screens, is an ethnography of couple’s therapy in Buenos Aires and focuses on couples’ compulsive returns to the hegemonic promises of romantic love. The book contributes to medical and psychological anthropology with an innovative theory of therapeutic efficacy, which revisits modern psychotherapy in light of the anthropology of spirit possession. In the context of Argentina’s widespread psychological culture, I followed a group of systemic therapists, who were observing live therapy sessions behind a one-way mirror or through closed-circuit television. Systemic therapy focuses on how partners in romantic couples are caught in circular loops of interaction, which can thwart therapeutic transformation or make it difficult to end potentially abusive relationships. Can therapy interrupt compulsive psycho-social attachments? Drawing from more than two hundred hours of live therapy, I show how the systemic setting of therapy performs a contemporary “dispossession ritual.” In this ritual, which includes visual technologies as much as therapists, patients are released from, and reoriented towards, the affective forces that occupy their psychic life. Mobilizing the anthropological notion of “spirits” to widen our understanding of “affects,” the book considers affects as late modern spirits.

In dialogue with the Argentinean tradition of social psychology, which brings therapeutic practices outside of the space of the clinic, the book goes beyond the ethnographic analysis of psychotherapy. Into the Loop challenges anthropologists themselves to rethink their discipline as a form of social therapeutics that can be used to address collective distress in the cross-cultural context of global mental health.

My next project looks at smartphone and internet “addictions” and their impacts on the cognitive life of college students. The central proposition is that compulsive digital rituals mobilize a form of hypnotic trance that makes users available to abusive relationships with digital media. These relationships can foster the emergence of symptomatic idioms, from depression to attention disorders, that provide a psychic commentary on globalized forms of capitalist extraction and consumption.

 

Representative Publications

Articles

2019. “Refracting Affects: Affect, Psychotherapy, and Spirit Dis-Possession.” Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry 43 (2): 290–314.

Forthcoming. “A Therapy of Screens. Psychotherapy and the Visual Apparatus.” Anthropological Quarterly, Winter 2020

Book

In progress. Into the Loop: Affect, Therapy, and Screens.

Selected Essays, Podcasts, Talks, Reviews

2020. “The Zoomification of Everyday Life.” Social Sciences Perspectives on the “New Normal”

2020. Talking Culture, COVID conversation with Alejandra Melian-Morse

Bombay, Jean-Philippe and Samuele Collu. 2020. (in press). “A Scroll Through the Present” in Soigner la Technologie. Stasis. Vol. II.

2019. “The Datum: Theory and the Feverish Madness of Vision.” Society for Cultural Anthropology.

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