The presence and growing visibility of racial minority immigrants in the United States and across the globe have triggered a sense of collective anxiety, where dissociative defenses maintain emotional distance from and identification with groups perceived to be threatening. Fringe movements and mainstream political parties have framed immigrants and refugees as the major cause of unemployment and crime, and as a threat to the dominant cultural and social fabric. This presentation discusses psychoanalytic perspectives on the roots of xenophobia, racialized defenses, and their implications for the experiences of racial minority immigrants in the U.S. It further addresses how the fear of immigrants reflects anxiety in multiple dimensions, involving not only the fears of the receiving or host context but also the xenophobia that immigrants carry with them from their countries of origin. The implications of white supremacy, xenophobia, and racism are explored in the context of the therapeutic relationship.
At the conclusion of this presentation, participants will be able to:
- Identify the impact of xenophobia and racism on the intrapsychic and interpersonal experiences of racial minority immigrants and their children.
- Recognize how racism and xenophobia manifest within transference and countertransference dynamics.
- Name the ways in which sociopolitical issues related to immigration can be explored in the therapeutic relationship.
Usha Tummala-Narra, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and the Director of Community-Based Education at the Albert and Jessie Danielsen Institute, as well as Research Professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Boston University. Her research and scholarship focus on immigration, trauma, race, and culturally informed psychoanalytic psychotherapy. She is also in independent practice in Cambridge, Massachusetts and works primarily with survivors of trauma from diverse sociocultural backgrounds.
Dr. Tummala-Narra is an Associate Editor of Psychoanalytic Dialogues and the Asian American Journal of Psychology. She is the author of Psychoanalytic Theory and Cultural Competence in Psychotherapy (2016) and the editor of Trauma and Racial Minority Immigrants: Turmoil, Uncertainty, and Resistance (2021), both published by the American Psychological Association Books. She is a member of the Holmes Commission on Racial Equality in the American Psychoanalytic Association and has served on numerous committees, boards, and task forces in the American Psychological Association, including the APA Presidential Task Force on Immigration, the APA Task Force on Revising the Multicultural Guidelines, and the APA Task Force on Trauma and Grief Recovery.
Bhatia, S. (2019). Searching for justice in an unequal world: Reframing indigenous psychology as a cultural and political project. Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology, 39(2), 107-114.
Orfanos, S.D. (2019). Drops of light into the darkness: Migration, immigration, and human rights. Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 29, 269-283.
Tummala-Narra, P. (Ed.) (2021). Racial minority immigrants and trauma: Turmoil, resistance, and uncertainty (pp. 285-303). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Continuing Education Credits: This program offers 2 CE credits addressing implicit bias, free for all MCPP members. For non-MCPP members, there is a $50 fee to attend for CE credits or a $25 fee to attend without CE credits.