The Return of the Freudian Couch: Managing Affectivity through Technologies of Comfort

Malou Juelskjær, Dorthe Staunæs, Helene Ratner

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


    This article explores how the affective “set-up” of Freud’s legendary couch has been exported into modern education relations. The so-called psy-sciences from pedagogy, psychology, and psychiatry have informed self-management in school. Managing self-management has a material-affective dimension. Through affective encounters with the couch, we argue, management can foster and maintain students’ desire to take part in school and enhance their own learning. Combining Karen Barad’s notion of intra-activity, a Gilles Deleuzian/Brian Massumian concept of affectivity, and Malou Juelskjær’s concept of comfort technology, we explore how the couch participates in transforming intensities and shaping desires by affecting bodies, voices, atmospheres, and relations. We look into the Danish school, which over the past decade has intensified its focus on preparing students to take part in a workforce in the knowledge economy. This means that much focus is on cultivating a learning subject that desires personal development and lifelong learning. We look at the couches placed near or inside the principal’s office to explore their role in affective management and how they tune and charge subject formation. Through our material-affective perspective we zoom in on everyday practices in the offices of principals to see how the couch, a mundane comfort technology, affects management relations between principal, students, parents, and teachers.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalInternational Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education
    Issue number9
    Pages (from-to)1132-1152
    Publication statusPublished - 2013

    Cite this