Historicizing Affect, Psychoanalyzing History Academic Article uri icon


  • Within the last two decades in Australia, Britain, and the United States, we have seen a veritable explosion of cultural panic regarding the problem of pedophilia. Scarcely a day passes without some mention in the media of predatory pedophiles or organized pedophile networks. Many social constructionist historians and sociologists have described this incitement to discourse as indicative of a moral panic. The question that concerns me in this article is: If this incitement to discourse is indicative of a moral panic, to what does the panic refer? I begin by detailing, first, how social constructionism requires psychoanalytic categories in order to understand the notion of panic, and second, how a psychoanalytic reading of history might reveal important unconscious forces at work in the current pedophilia "crisis" that our culture refuses to confront. Here, I will suggest a repressed discourse of child sexuality is writ large. I will argue that the hegemonic discourse of pedophilia is contained largely within a neurotic structure and that many of our prevailing responses to pedophilia function as a way to avoid tackling crucial issues about the reality and trauma of childhood sexuality.

publication date

  • March 23, 2004