The Indigenous one (L’indigène) by Eric Zuliani

From LQ 110 – 8.12.11 – Translated by Francine Danniau

link to french version

Jacques-Alain Miller, announcing the theme of the next study day of the Institute of the Child in his intervention 19 March 2011, put the emphasis on a certain type of knowledge of which the hidden dynamic was in fact the manifestation of a power. Following the Freudian discovery on infantile sexuality, he then gave another type of knowledge its place, an authentic one he specifies, a knowledge, which, according to Freud, is rooted in the drive.

So there is “knowledge and knowledge”, as Freud indicates elsewhere.

This distinction of different knowledge changes our approach to a certain number of phenomena linked to the relationship a child has with institutions: school, family, and more widely, institutions for specialised education, a relationship made uniform by the weight the question of learning has. More specifically, it allows us not to be mistaken on what can bring a child to meeting an analyst. The symptoms presented by the parents quite often take on the guise of problems at school: difficulties concentrating, difficulties with organising the work, instability, etc. for which a child sometimes already consults a therapist. It seems to me that the intervention of J.A. Miller introduces a precious rectification, which invites us to read the symptoms in a different way than the relationship to knowledge reduced to schooling, and to consider them rather as the result of a problematic relationship the subject has with the manifestations of power, that is to say with the Other.

        This rectification has allowed me to see the distinctive feature in the case of a young boy of 11, adopted very early in life, native of a Central American country.  He meets with a speech therapist for two years who helps him organise his work and to improve his concentration: but things hardly get better. Undoubtedly, Alain having difficulty at school, passes from one class to the next with great effort. The parents, both highly involved in liberal professions, are very worried about the future of their son. What will become of him? This polite and friendly boy, however, does not initially attend a meeting I propose, until the conversation, left free, allows him to speak about the main activity he does when bored. Ah boredom! A term quite often used by children and adolescents when they talk about school… or, worse, home teaching!

When Alain is bored, he photographs the license plates of cars, from the window of his room. It is not the escape promised by the plates that attracts his attention; no: “the license plates”, he tells me, “have the particularity of being all alike, but each one, absolutely different”. If this is not raising a fundamental point! We will see how much this remark concerns him. Gradually, indeed, Alain describes his so-called problem with school, by telling me what he thinks of this or that teacher: especially the one who teaches him French; “the mother tongue?”. One feels the weight of resentment loaded, as it should, with the ballast of love, which gives his conduct the direction not of a school related problem, but of contestation. “French is not a problem: I read a book in two days and I take great pleasure in doing so”. I ask him:  “Oh yes, which one?“. It’s Friday or the Limbo of the Pacific, which he loves. In a brief exchange he tells me the story, gradually noticing  the evocative value the novel has for his own situation. Describing more specifically a scene where Robinson wants to lecture Friday on behalf of educating a savage, he stresses the rebellion of Friday. He eventually concludes that Friday is he himself a bit and says:

At school I am the indigenous one; like Friday I refuse to be lectured”.

I reply: “you do not want to be a slave”.

      One needs to take here fully into account the position of refusal, not of knowledge but of power, which forced him to position himself under the identification of – “indigenous” – which until then Alain had masked by his silent “hainamoration” [hateloving] towards his French teacher, and so making an Other exist in relation to whom he lived as a slave. The identification thus brought to light, allowed him to proudly bring along his adoption file at the next session. He keeps the papers close to him and reads them often; in short, he has made them a treasure, showing them to me as something most precious to him. In accepting to consign them as object, they really become readable: so he discovers a double absence, which he had never noticed before, not only a blank concerning his father of origin, but also a blank about his adoptive father whom he comes across daily at home. There he is now, in the present, “indigenous” with regard to the events that presided over his existence.

Reference: J-A Miller: Intervention March 19th 2011 in French at English translation forthcoming.

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