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Ben Kafka is a psychoanalyst, cultural historian, and critic. He's the author of The Demon of Writing: Powers and Failures of Paperwork (Zone Books, 2012), a historical investigation into bureaucratic errors ("provocative, original, and a very good read" - The New York Review of Books). He's currently writing a book about the relationships, situations, and social forces that drive us crazy (gaslighting, double binds, mind games, etc.). He works with adults and adolescents in private practice. More information about his academic and clinical work can be found here.

During the 2022-23 academic year Professor Kafka will be a visiting fellow at the DeWitt Wallace Institute of Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College.


Selected Publications


  • 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 (Éditions Zones Sensibles, 2013). ("witty and rich" - The TLS • "keen and vivacious" - Publishers Weekly • "probably one of the most entertaining scholarly books ever written" - Somatosphere • "eccentric" - The New York Times)
  • William Pietz, The Problem of the Fetish, ed. Francesco Pellizzi, Stefanos Geroulanos, and Ben Kafka (University of Chicago Press, 2022)


Selected Articles, Essays, and Reviews

  • "The Caregiver's Dilemma: Ben Kafka interviews W.J.T. Mitchell," Los Angeles Review of Books, September 23, 2020 (link)
  • Review of Christopher Bollas, Meaning and Melancholia: Life in the Age of Bewilderment in the International Journal of Psychoanalysis, vol 101, no. 2 (2020)
  • "Is the Death Drive Real?," Gizmodo, February 3, 2020 (link) 
  • "Returning to the Repressed" (followed by an exchange with Brian Connolly), History of the Present 9.2 (Fall 2019)
  • "Are Friends Electric? Jeffrey Sconce's The Technical Delusion: Electronics, Power, Insanity," Bookforum (Feb/March 2019). (link)
  • "Human, Also Human," October 166 (Fall 2018) (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)
  • "What is the Future of Psychoanalysis in the Academy?," Psychoanalysis and History 20:1 (2018)
  • "Ni Prose Ni Vers: Le Carnet de Notes du Psychanalyste," Les Cahiers du musée nationale d'art moderne (Hors-Série 2017)
  • “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)
  • "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) (link)
  • "Pushing Paper," Lapham's Quarterly, vol. 4., no. 2. (Spring 2011)
  • "Power Hungry: Dining With the Committee of Public Safety," Cabinet #32 (Winter 2008-09). (link)
  • "Paperwork: State of the Discipline," Book History #12 (2009)
  • "The Demon of Writing: Paperwork, Public Safety, and the Reign of Terror," Representations vol. 98, no. 1 (Spring 2007).


Media, Culture, and Communication

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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
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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
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