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Ben Kafka — The Effort to Drive the Other Person Crazy

April 7, 2021 @ 12:15 pm - 1:30 pm  |  Virtual Event


What does it mean to be driven crazy? By a parent, a professor, a president, perhaps even the internet itself? In 1959 the psychoanalyst Harold Searles published a paper in The British Journal of Medical Psychology, “The Effort to Drive the Other Person Crazy: An Element in the Aetiology and Psychotherapy of Schizophrenia.” “My clinical experience,” he wrote, “has indicated that the individual becomes schizophrenic partly by reason of a long-continued effort, a largely or wholly unconscious effort, on the part of some person or persons highly important in his upbringing, to drive him crazy.” This talk will consider Searles’s thesis and its implications for our understanding of mental life. It will argue that, while it may not be a very good explanation for schizophrenia, it nevertheless offers us new opportunities to think about our relations to media, culture, and one another.


This colloquium is co-sponsored by the History Department.

RSVP by 11 AM on Wednesday, April 7th; you will receive Zoom link and password at 11:30 AM the day of the colloquium.

Ben Kafka is an Associate Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University. He is also a psychoanalyst in private practice. He the author of The Demon of Writing: Powers and Failures of Paperwork (Zone Books, 2012) and co-editor, with Francesco Pellizzi and Stefanos Geroulanos, of The Problem of the Fetish: William Pietz’s Lost Manuscript (University of Chicago Press, 2022). He is currently working on a book about gaslighting, folies-à-deux, double binds, Catch-22s, and other forms of induced insanity.

The Center for Cultural Studies hosts a weekly Wednesday colloquium featuring work by faculty and visitors. We gather online at 12:10 PM, with presentations beginning at 12:15 PM.

Staff assistance is provided by The Humanities Institute.

*2020-2021 colloquia will be held virtually until further notice. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own coffee, tea, and cookies to the session.


April 7, 2021
12:15 pm - 1:30 pm