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Ben Kafka

Associate Professor

Media, Culture, and Communication

I’m a psychoanalyst, cultural historian, and critic. My first book, The Demon of Writing: Powers and Failures of Paperwork (Zone Books, 2012), was an investigation into paperwork's conflicts and contradictions. I’m currently writing a new book about gaslighting, folies-à-deux, double binds, Catch-22s, and other forms of induced insanity. I work with adult and adolescent patients in private practice.

I’ve been at NYU since 2007. Before that I was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts and a Lecturer in History and Humanistic Studies at Princeton. I received my Ph.D. in History from Stanford. My clinical training has taken place at the Institute for Psychoanalytic Training and Research, a component society of the International Psychoanalytical Association. I received additional training as a Rita Frankiel Memorial Fellow of the Melanie Klein Trust. I’m licensed to practice by the State of New York.

I have been a Fellow of the New York Institute for the Humanities since 2007, and chair of its executive committee since 2012. Over the years I have also been affiliated with the Chicago Center for Psychoanalysis; the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton; the Internationales Kolleg für Kulturtechnikforschung und Medienphilosophie at the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar; the Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women at Brown; and the Rutgers Center for Historical Analysis. I am a co-editor of the journal History of the Present and serve on the advisory board of Grey Room.

I hold cross-appointments in the Departments of History and Comparative Literature.

Selected Publications

Book

  • The Demon of Writing: Powers and Failures of Paperwork (Zone Books, 2012).
  • French translation: Le Demon de l'Écriture: Pouvoirs et Limites de la Paperasse, with an afterword by Robert Darnton (Éditions Zones Sensibles, 2013).
  • Reviewed and/or interviewed in The New York Times; The New York Review of Books; The New Republic; Slate; Bookforum; Times Literary Supplement; Times Higher Education Supplement; The Los Angeles Review of Books; Radical Philosophy; Dissent; The Weekly Standard; Die Weltwoche; La Revue des Livres; Le Vif/L'Express; La Quinzaine Littéraire; in addition to academic journals in history, anthropology, sociology, art history, archival science.

 

Articles and Essays

  • "Human, Also Human," October 166 (Fall 2018)
  • "Ni Prose Ni Vers: Le Carnet de Notes du Psychanalyste," Les Cahiers du musée nationale d'art moderne (Hors-Série 2017)
  • "A Riot on Every Page: Archive, Bureaucracy, Paranoia," in Peter Piller Archive - Materials (G) Albedo (Fotomuseum Winterthur/Walter König, 2014).
  • "Medium/Media" in Emily Apter, Barbara Cassin, Jacques Lezra, and Michael Wood, eds., Dictionary of Untranslatables: A Philosophical Lexicon (Princeton University Press, 2014)
  • "On Paperwork," Il Palazzo Enciclopedico: Catalogue of the 55th Venice Biennale (2013)
  • "The Administration of Things: A Genealogy" West 86th online (May 2012)
  • “From the Desk of Roland Barthes: Putting Mater (and Pater) Back in Materialism,” West 86th, vol. 18, no. 2 (fall 2011)
  • “No, Oedipus Does Not Exist,” with Jamieson Webster, Cabinet #42 (summer 2011)

 

Artforum/Bookforum

  • "Are Friends Electric? Jeffrey Sconce's The Technical Delusion: Electronics, Power, Insanity,Bookforum (Feb/March 2019). (link)
  • “Medication and its Discontents: Lauren Slater’s Blue Dreams: The Science and Story of the Drugs that Changed Our Minds,” Bookforum (Feb/Mar 2018)  (link)
  • “Oedipus Klex: Damion Searls’s The Inkblots: Hermann Rorschach, His Iconic Test, and the Power of Seeing,” Artforum (September 2017)
  • “Analyze This: Suzanne O’Sullivan’s Is It All In Your Head? True Stories of Imaginary Illness,Bookforum (April/May 2017) (link)
  • “Smoke Screen: D.A. Miller’s Hidden Hitchcock,” Artforum (March 2017)
  • “Braving the Elements: Jussi Parikka’s Geology of Media,” Artforum (November 2015) (link)

Programs

Media, Culture, and Communication

Our media studies programs train agile researchers of a shifting media landscape. Learn to analyze media and technology in its cultural, social, and global contexts.

Courses

Psychoanalysis: Desire and Culture

Explores the subject of desire in modern media and culture. Freud's ideas have had a profound influence on everything from the earliest manuals on public relations to the struggles of modern feminism. We will read a range of psychoanalytic theorists while studying how their insights have been put to work by both the culture industry and its critics.
Course #
MCC-UE 1009
Units
4
Term
Fall, Spring
Faculty

Professors

Ben Kafka ,
Department

The Psychic Life of Media

This seminar develops themes addressed in “MCC-UE 1009 Psychoanalysis: Desire and Culture.” The course expands and deepen understanding of core Freudian and post-Freudian concepts via texts by Melanie Klein, W.R. Bion, Jacques Lacan, Jean Laplanche, and others. These texts will be considered alongside a series of media-cultural artifacts selected for study by seminar participants.
Course #
MCC-UE 1105
Units
4
Term
Spring
Faculty

Professors

Ben Kafka ,
Department