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    YouTube birth and the primal scene

    Baraitser, Lisa (2017) YouTube birth and the primal scene. Performance Research 22 (5), pp. 7-17. ISSN 1352-8165.

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    Motherhood has recently re-emerged as ‘material’ for artistic practice, and as a viable subject of academic research that both recognizes and extends earlier feminist assertions that the maternal is a key site for the anxious psychosocial negotiations of identity, subjectivity, equality, ethics and politics. Additionally, pregnancy and birth have graphically entered the public domain. Hundreds of thousands of short films of live birth, for instance, circulate around the globe on video sharing platforms such as YouTube, some with followings of many million viewers. Yet, how might we understand the desire to perform and spectate birth? ‘YouTube birth’ raises questions about performing and spectating birth in digital culture, and the meaning of watching our own birth with a mass public of millions of viewers. In this paper I explore these questions through revisiting the psychoanalytic notion of the ‘primal scene’. The primal scene is the Freudian articulation of the crucial role of infantile sexual and violent fantasies in structuring psychic life, linked to the loss of, or denial of, the material/maternal body as source or origin. Although within feminist scholarship the primal scene as a theoretical concept is radically out of date, it may be productive to revisit primal fantasies in the digital age, and the ways digital technologies shift our relation to ‘analogue’ notions of place, scene, birth, origin and loss. Exploring the continued place of psychoanalysis in helping to understand issues to do with origin, reproduction and temporality, I ask both what psychoanalysis might have to offer our understanding of performing and watching birth, and how a psychoanalytic configuration of the primal scene may itself need to change in relation to digital primal fantasies and technologies that function through fungibility and loss-less-ness.


    Item Type: Article
    Additional Information: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis, available online at the link above.
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Social Sciences
    Depositing User: Lisa Baraitser
    Date Deposited: 11 Dec 2017 08:05
    Last Modified: 02 Aug 2023 17:37


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