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April 05, 2009, 2:00 PM

On Aggression: The Politics and Psychobiology of Sex and Violence

Participants: Jessica Benjamin, Anthony Di Fiore, James Gilligan (moderator), Allan Siegel, Larry Siever, Neal Simon

Sexuality and aggression have long been intertwined, both as societal taboos and as central mechanisms of human survival. Beginning in childhood, the intimations and manifestations of human sexuality exert an almost hypnotic power. Aggression and violence have a similar power to transfix, as evidenced by the morbid curiosity—and crawling traffic—that invariably accompanies a roadside accident. In sadomasochism and pornography, the mesmerizing power of the sexual and aggressive impulses coalesces in behaviors that may in fact germinate at a very young age. This roundtable will address the intersection of sexuality and violence, as a mode of human expression, as a survival tool, and as pathology whose extreme forms can constrain individual freedom. Panelists will address the subject from the perspectives of psychoanalysis, neurobiology, and cultural anthropology.

Jessica Benjamin is a psychoanalyst in private practice in New York City. She is on the faculty at the New York University Postdoctoral Psychology Program in Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy. She is best known as the author of The Bonds of Love: Psychoanalysis, Feminism and the Problem of Domination. Her more recent books are Like Subjects, Love Objects: Essays on Recognition and Sexual Difference and Shadow of the Other: Intersubjectivity and Gender in Psychoanalysis. She has lectured and supervised worldwide, presenting her perspective on the concept of recognition in intersubjectivity and on gender development. She is associate editor of Psychoanalytic Dialogues, a founder of the International Association for Relational Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy, a founding editor of Studies in Gender and Sexuality, a board member of the Stephen Mitchell Center for Relational Studies, and is currently the director of the Acknowledgment Project, a series of dialogues between Israeli and Palestinian mental health practitioners sponsored by the Norwegian Foreign MInistry.

Anthony Di Fiore is a biological anthropologist specializing in primate behavior and population genetics. His field work takes him to Amazonian Ecuador, the Peruvian highlands, and the Chaco region of Argentina. In those places, Di Fiore works mainly on aspects of the behavioral biology of socially monogamous primates (titi monkeys, saki) and atelin (prehensile-tailed) primates. Additionally, he complements his field studies with molecular genetic laboratory work in order to address issues that are typically difficult to explore through observational studies alone, including questions about dispersal behavior, gene flow, mating patterns, population structure, and the fitness consequences of individual behavior.

James Gilligan is a psychiatrist who teaches as a Collegiate Professor at NYU in the Schools of Medicine, Law, and Arts and Science. For more than 30 years he taught at the Harvard Medical School, where he was Director of the Institute of Law and Psychiatry and Medical Director of the Massachusetts prison mental hospital for the "criminally insane." He has been President of the International Association for Forensic Psychotherapy (devoted to research on the etiology, treatment, and prevention of violent behavior). He has served as a consultant on the causes and prevention of violence to President Clinton, Tony Blair, the World Health Organization, the World Court, the World Economic Forum, and the office of the Secretary General of the United Nations. He is the author of Violence: Reflections on a National Epidemic and Preventing Violence, and co-author and co-editor of Youth Violence: Scientific Approaches to Prevention. In 2004, Physicians for Social Responsibility honored him with their annual Achievement Award.

Allan Siegel is Professor of Neurology & Neuroscience and Psychiatry at the New Jersey Medical School (Newark) of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. His research for the past 44 years has concerned the analysis of the neuroanatomical substrates and neurophysiological and neurochemical mechanisms underlying predatory aggression and defensive rage behavior in the cat. His most recent research efforts have addressed the role of cytokines, typically released in response to sickness behavior, in the regulation of aggressive processes. He is Co-Director of the Mind, Brain and Behavior course given to first year medical students. His most recent books are The Neuroimmunological Basis of Behavior and Mental Disorders (with Steven Zalcman), Essential Neuroscience (with H.N. Sapru), PreTest in Neuroscience (sixth edition), and The Neurobiology of Aggression and Rage.

Larry Siever is Professor of Psychiatry and Vice-Chair for VA Affairs at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. He also serves as Executive Director of the Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Center (MIRECC), and as Chief of the Psychiatry Program at the Bronx VA Medical Center. Dr. Siever has published over 400 peer-reviewed articles. He directs the Mood and Personality Disorders program at Mount Sinai, a federally funded research program that investigates the neurobiology of schizophrenic spectrum personality disorders, such as schizotypal personality disorder, and impulsive/affectively unstable personality disorders, such as borderline personality disorder. He is a member of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology and Past President of the Society of Biologic Psychiatry, from which he received the A.E. Bennett Award for clinical research.

Neal Simon is Professor of Biological Sciences at Lehigh University and CEO of Azevan Pharmaceuticals, Inc. He is widely recognized for his work on the neurobiology of aggression and violence and, more recently, in pharmaceutical development. His research in hormone-neurotransmitter interactions, behavioral regulation, and drug development has been supported by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Ben Franklin Technology Partners, and the H. F. Guggenheim Foundation. Dr. Simon has led Azevan Pharmaceuticals, Inc, a drug discovery and development firm focusing on novel compounds for disorders of stress, mood, and behavior, since 2000. Since 1983, Dr. Simon has held several positions at Lehigh University, including Associate Dean of Graduate Studies and Director of the Center for Molecular Bioscience and Biotechnology. He is the recipient of a National Research Service Postdoctoral Fellowship, the Lehigh Award for outstanding teaching by a junior faculty member, and a Distinguished Research Professorship from Université Louis Pasteur in Strasbourg, France.


Discussion Board

This forum allows for an ongoing discussion of the above Philoctetes event. You may use this space to share your thoughts or to pose questions for panelists. An attempt will be made to address questions during the live event or as part of a continued online dialogue.
Roberto Moy says:
¿la agresion y destructividad humana son de naturaleza refleja de acuerdo a su capacidad de simbolizar o forma parte de la teoría de las relaciones objetales?

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