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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; French translation, 2013), a historical investigation into our experiences of 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. He works with adults and adolescents in private practice.

In 2022-23 Prof. Kafka will be on partial leave as a Visiting Fellow at the DeWitt Wallace Institute of Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College.

More information about his academic and clinical work can be found here.

Selected Publications

Books

  • 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).

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.

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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
Credits
4
Department
Media, Culture, and Communication

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
Credits
4
Department
Media, Culture, and Communication