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In this work, we raised a preliminary question regarding the ethical perspective of a possible psychoanalytic clinic with indigenous peoples. This issue is addressed on two levels through a repositioning of psychoanalysts toward the hegemonic dimension of colonial whiteness and, on the other, circumscribed by the notions of temporality in psychoanalysis, whether through the timelessness of the Freudian unconscious or through the unprecedented management of logical time introduced by Lacan. We advance by asking about the status of the unconscious experienced by the collective sharing of dreams by different indigenous ethnicities and, in parallel, through the reading of the extermination and erasure of language, culture, and indigenous subjects, authentic owners of these lands, in an interpretation of the colonial history of the country through the repetition present in the famous slogan: “Brazil; the country of the future”. What does Ailton Krenak’s statement - “the future is ancestral” - teach us about the idea of recovery as a possibility of a future for Brazil?

psychoanalytic clinic; indigenous dreams; temporality; decolonial unconscious; ancestral


Levantamos neste trabalho uma questão preliminar à perspectiva ética de uma possível clínica psicanalítica com povos indígenas. Esta questão é tratada em dois planos; através de um reposicionamento dos psicanalistas frente à dimensão hegemônica da branquitude colonial e, por outro, circunscrita a partir das noções da temporalidade em psicanálise; seja por meio da atemporalidade do inconsciente freudiano, seja pelo manejo inédito do tempo lógico introduzido por Lacan. Avançamos perguntando sobre o estatuto do inconsciente experienciado pelo compartilhamento coletivo dos sonhos por diferentes etnias indígenas e, em paralelo, por meio da leitura do extermínio e apagamento da língua, da cultura e dos sujeitos indígenas, autênticos donos dessas terras, em uma interpretação da história colonial do país através da repetição presente no famoso slogan: “Brasil; o país do futuro”. O que a assertiva de Ailton Krenak - “o futuro é ancestral” - nos ensina em relação à ideia de retomada como possibilidade de um futuro para o Brasil?

clínica psicanalítica; sonhos indígenas; temporalidade; inconsciente decolonial; futuro ancestral

In this article, we start with a question about the possibility or not of a psychoanalytic clinic with indigenous peoples. This proposal is not just theoretical but an effort to conceptually interrogate the ethics constituting the clinical and political experience that the research and extension project - Psychoanalysis and decolonization: clinic, writing and popular media, which structures, here in Rio de Janeiro, the collective Ocupação Psicanalítica - has been building together with some members of different ethnicities, from different parts of the country, in recent years. This research takes place through various forms of action, visits to villages, interlocution of the psychoanalyst immersed in the processes of indigenous political struggle, or a series of conversations and interviews that we have been carrying out with leaders and indigenous health professionals (part of the transcribed interviews are presented in this special Ágora‘s Journal special dossier). Over time, the presence of the psychoanalyst in dialogue with these communities gave rise to demands for listening to psychological suffering. Since 2022, we have started providing services in person, firstly online, and, more recently, we have started individual or collective services.

The teams of students and Psychoanalysts from Ocupação Rio and Ocupação Bahia participate in the collective supervision of indigenous cases treated by the project, as do professionals from SESAI - Secretariat of Indigenous Health - responsible for coordinating and executing the national Health Care Policy for Indigenous Peoples - from the Ilhéus hub, in the south of Bahia. These teams are multidisciplinary and include nurses, social workers, psychologists, physicians, and pharmacists. More recently, we have started visits to the villages, which are officially eight, with the public defender’s office of the state of Rio de Janeiro. Half of the indigenous population living in Rio de Janeiro is 500 Guaranis in the municipality of Angra dos Reis, and there are others in Paraty and Maricá. Furthermore, we have held together with the Laboratory of Transcultural Psychiatry and Ethnopsychoanalysis (LaPTE) of the UFRJ Institute of Psychiatry (IPUB) meetings in Aldeia Marakanã, a multi-ethnic village, which is not demarcated and has not yet found legitimacy from the government regarding its existence, from which demands for individual and collective assistance have come. We have built, together with LaPTE and indigenous peoples, an outpatient clinic at IPUB to serve these populations.

An affirmation that hangs over psychoanalysts today is that psychoanalysis will not last if it does not face the great challenges of our time mainly linked to the issues of segregation, which in Brazil, due to its colonial roots, combines agendas of excluded minorities that today cry out under the form of a trans revolution, confronting racism, the struggle of the homeless, landless - of those who live in poverty and extreme misery - and, above all, the indigenous cause. For the first time in history, we have a Ministry of Indigenous Peoples. In addition to the demarcation of lands, it aims to begin the historical repair of more than five hundred years of extermination of ethnicities, languages, cultures and exploitation, rape, cruelty, and invisibility that makes necropolitics a modus operandi of the State’s action toward the Brazilian original peoples. Brazil’s position today on the international scene since the election of President Lula points to the construction of a multipolar world, in contrast to imperialism and American and European cultural hegemony. In this context, the environmental preservation agenda to stop the ongoing rampant destruction of the planet by the neoliberal advance has been raised by poorer countries or blocs that counteract US and European imperialism, such as the BRICS. In this case, what we are witnessing again despite all the advancement of the extreme right in the world are the voices of populations excluded from the profit regime and the purchasing power of the market, starring in new epistemologies and new ways of operating with discourse, interfering with politics, economy, and ways of living. It is essential in this sense that the psychoanalyst is attentive to what these voices, once completely silenced and ignored, say.

Considering the struggle of residents of forests, countryside, quilombos, and urban and rural villages, it is worth using the concept of environmental racism. The specialist in urban sociology and environmental activist Rita Maria da Silva Passos (2021PASSOS, R. Entrevista. Revista Conectas. 2021. Disponível em: Disponível em: . Acesso em: 22 set. 2023.
) states that capitalism uses inequalities for its expansion, and the spaces where people are removed and neglected have color: they are black and indigenous. Racism is an effective instrument for capitalist logic because the phenotype, color, and appearance are enough, and the person is already excluded, violated, and oppressed. What Fanon called the ‘epidermalization of inferiority’ from African colonization applies perfectly to racism in Brazil. Although it does not appear in environmental impact studies or company accounting, there are advantages to occupying spaces where people are not heard; their lives have a relative existence for public authorities, at least in terms of investment. Strengthening the exploitation of natural resources is profitable.

Environmental racism refers to “the disproportionate burden of risks, damages, and social and environmental impacts that fall on the most vulnerable ethnic groups” (Passos, 2021PASSOS, R. Entrevista. Revista Conectas. 2021. Disponível em: Disponível em: . Acesso em: 22 set. 2023.
) showing that the planet’s destruction does not happen in a democratic way. Environmental racism and necropolitics feed each other and are part of the same Capital self-expansion project. According to Mbembe (2018MBEMBE, A. Necropolítica. São Paulo: N-1 Edições, 2018.), there is a regulation of deaths, making state-sanctioned extermination feasible according to a profile of characteristics of bodies that can be neglected. When indigenous people march toward Brasília against the indigenous territory time frame, or vulnerable groups fight not to be compulsorily removed - as occurred in Vila Autódromo for the construction of the Olympic park in Rio - or the struggles for housing and land ownership by landless populations or quilombolas, by those who have nowhere to live or farm, or when leaders against Belo Monte demand environmental justice and reparation for the unprecedented destruction, the gender, race, class and ethnicity divide becomes clear. The poor and Afro-Amerindian populations must take a leading role in combating environmental racism, as these populations experience in their bodies the effects of the destruction of the climate, soil, water, forests, and rivers, and, therefore, they are those who initiate the exit from a passive place in the face of segregation, becoming a multiple set of agents of socio-environmental transformation. However, they cannot be alone. They need to be heard, and their voices have to resonate as a transformation of public policy. In this sense, the arising question is: What is the place of the psychoanalyst, the analytical discourse, so that they do not speak by themselves and to expand the repercussions and the range of these voices?

Before taking as given and authorized an entry of psychoanalysts in this field, it is essential to ask why psychoanalysts, at least in Brazil, do not have a practice of listening to indigenous peoples, considering that this has been the most exterminated population, more attacked, more dehumanized by the State and neglected by the mass of the population that is silent?

Evidently, this question is not easy to answer, but we can raise the hypothesis that, as it is a practice established in Europe and for the Western universe, in the face of a modern civilized sexual morality with a Cartesian matrix — even if to subvert it —, we should ask us whether we can extend the experience of psychoanalysis to populations that do not necessarily live under a worldview like this. We can even ask whether the subject excluded from the science that is divided, evanescent, and lame, with which psychoanalysis operates, would be present among the bodies and subjective systems of traditional Brazilian populations.

Furthermore, the psychoanalyst works based on demand, even though the provision of listening promotes the addressing of the speech addressed to the analyst. However, in this case, it would not be up to us to address original populations by imposing our culture and offering something, even if it involves listening. However, when we get closer to the political struggle of Brazilian indigenous people, we see that the process of catechesis, acculturation, and invasion of their territories already made the vast majority of those we spoke with, subjects taken by suffering very similar to that which we experience in the cities, already that capitalism reached the villages and also divided populations in terms of their cultural horizon and what reaches young people via the internet. This is how, in spaces of conversation and presence, we began to receive listening demands. This does not mean to say we are dealing with the same clinic. We have to be aware and raise a kind of preliminary question to assist the original peoples. In this text, we chose to develop this question based on the understanding of time and dreams by these people, as a way of interrogating the status of the unconscious for the indigenous populations with whom we have had contact.

Before entering the debate on indigenous temporality, it is important to ask ourselves about the future of psychoanalysis that is at stake if we do not address the issues of segregation and racism that are advancing in a deadly way in the neoliberalism that permeates contemporary social ties. And before that, it is worth making an observation about the future of psychoanalysis.

1 The temporality of interpretation, in Freud and Lacan.

Talking about what the future is for psychoanalysis may seem somewhat antinomic at first, after all the timelessness of the unconscious in Freud leads Lacan to explore the Nachträglichkeit effect of the signifier, returning to time aprés-coup, a posteriori of interpretation, to coin logical time; the cut, with its extraordinary effectiveness, which takes us to a vector whose impression is that psychoanalysis tends to produce a resignification of the past. Several fundamental concepts point in this direction. Trauma as an event that is updated in the present, as it has not been covered by representation; the return of the repressed or rejected person with the emergence of the symptom; dreams as an elaboration of daytime fragments that cannot be done the day before, the concealing memories that give us news of the unconscious fantasies built throughout our history... Not to mention the installation of the analytical framework itself from the transference, with its libidinal ideas anticipated and the inclusion of the analyst in the psychic series already formed by the patient, as Freud would say (1912FREUD, S. Dinâmica da transferência (1912). São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2015. (Obras completas, 10): p.112).

Everywhere we go, from psychoanalytic theory to clinical practice, we have the impression of rediscovering the past in an attempt to transform it. By introducing the terrain of “will have been”, psychoanalysis invents its own unprecedented way of approaching the truth, a truth in its fictional structure, but which is directly connected with reality through the management of time. However, in the development of the concept of repetition compulsion, we can glimpse the idea of an unconscious that is not only in the past.

In the postulate of Beyond the Pleasure Principle, which finds justification in the concept of the death drive from 1920 onwards as a turning point for the second topic, Freud (1920) demonstrates that we will find in the future which is not so new to us. The analysis of traumatic dreams, which repeat in a distressing way the most terrible events experienced by the subject, does not refute the thesis that the dream is a wish fulfillment; on the contrary, it includes in desire its further dimension. The status of the unconscious, as an internal otherness, is presented by Freud as a stranger that will come, which can be desired as well as threatening. Because it is lurking and makes us wait, it is not something so unknown to us; on the contrary, it is intimate and even very familiar.

But is this the future, is the future contained in repetition?

In the chapel of Bones, in the Church of São Francisco, in Évora, built in the 17th century, we find a very distressing phrase, but which can also be funny, depending on who reads the statement. It highlights the return to the inorganic that Freud refers to when introducing the cyclical dimension of the death drive in Beyond the Pleasure Principle: “We bones that are here await yours”.

In Compulsions and obsessions, a neurosis of the future, Romildo do Rêgo Barros (2012BARROS, R. Compulsões e obsessões: uma neurose de futuro. Rio de Janeiro: Civilização brasileira, 2012. (Coleção: “Para ler Freud”)) shows us how the structure of the obsessive’s symptomatic act points to a curious characteristic in the management of the future for the neurotic, little explored among us. According to Barros, there are two fundamental manifestations of obsessions: doubt and procrastination. “While doubt is the obsessive subject’s way of approaching (like moving away from) an object of desire, procrastination represents the deadline given to the subject to assume his or her desire” (p. 57). If we associate the two, we have a result that well represents the obsessive’s strategy when faced with his desire: making it impossible. Procrastination is a future that may never arrive, as Lacan says in his seminar 6: “It is always for tomorrow that the obsessive reserves the engagement of his true desire: tomorrow without fail! With this he eliminates the lack of tomorrow and, thus, he guarantees a future immune to contingency, since he aims to control everything that separates him from carrying out his act” (Barros, 2012BARROS, R. Compulsões e obsessões: uma neurose de futuro. Rio de Janeiro: Civilização brasileira, 2012. (Coleção: “Para ler Freud”): p. 57).

Symptomatic acts and compulsive thoughts are substitutes for postponing the act itself. For example, to avoid the risk of losing control due to fear of the sound of thunder, the ‘rat man’ would start counting. The same strategy for managing time occurs when, through serialization, the instinctual objects are equated. So, to defend himself against the lady who provoked his desire, he interjects a thought that his father is going to die, or that the torture of the rats will occur with his privileged objects. Obsessive acts are repeated to avoid surprises and new things.

Lacan states that Freud’s definition of repetition comes from something located by Kierkegaard. In Danish, Gjentagelsen does not exactly mean repetition, but “resumption”. Kierkegaard’s definition is as follows: “Resumption is a reminiscence forward”. Reminiscence and repetition, therefore, are movements in opposite directions: what is not remembered, repression, is already gone, is a resumption backward, while repetition is a reminiscence forward. Conversion is nothing more than a manifestation in the body where there has been forgetfulness. The axiom hysterics suffer from reminiscences found psychic causality in psychoanalysis and a time that did not exist, a past that imposes itself, but that, if we can extract something from it, especially considering what goes beyond the pleasure principle and the concept of repetition, we will see that it contains a resumption of the future.

Aiming to rescue the foundations of the Freudian technique of interpretation - not only of dreams but of other formations of the unconscious - which was neglected throughout practice among post-Freudians, Lacan proposes an innovation in the practice of interpretation known as “logical time”, “short sessions”, or “cut” (LACAN, 1953LACAN, J. Função e campo da fala e da linguagem em psicanálise (1953). In: LACAN, J. Escritos. São Paulo: Perspectiva, 1999.: p. 267-324): time as another element for analytical intervention. The aim of interrupting the imaginary inflation that analysis began to produce, through the proliferation of meaning that infinitizes its end (LACAN, 1958LACAN, J. Função e campo da fala e da linguagem em psicanálise (1953). In: LACAN, J. Escritos. São Paulo: Perspectiva, 1999.: p. 598-608), allows us to anticipate, with each act of the analyst, the limit to the work of the unconscious of encrypting and deciphering the world, leading it to define how the analytical process comes to an end. Unlike Freud, who points out that psychoanalytic work is endless and that every analysis has a remainder that justifies a return to the device when necessary, Lacan demonstrates and theorizes a know-how with the remainder that marks a definitive end, quite well circumscribed and capable of being witnessed, even if every analysis has an incurable point.

The Lacanian complaint that there was an attempt, on the part of International Psycanalytical Association to make a kind of “translation” (LACAN, 1953LACAN, J. Função e campo da fala e da linguagem em psicanálise (1953). In: LACAN, J. Escritos. São Paulo: Perspectiva, 1999.: p. 593) of the repressed material so that the unconscious truth was brought to the surface and like that the analysand came to consciously appropriate it, it is partly due to a certain direction in Freud’s own interpretation. In many moments, like the case of the Wolf Man, Freud (1918FREUD, S. História de uma neurose infantil (1918). Rio de Janeiro: Imago, 1975. (Edição standard das obras psicológicas completas de Sigmund Freud, 17)) promotes several meanings and associations about the material brought by the patient, which can lead to conceiving the interpretation through such an explanatory aspect. Lacan (1953LACAN, J. Função e campo da fala e da linguagem em psicanálise (1953). In: LACAN, J. Escritos. São Paulo: Perspectiva, 1999.: p.312) goes so far as to suggest that the psychotic onset of the Wolf Man, reported by his second analyst, occurred as a result of this interpretative furor. In the famous “Letter 52” to Fliess (FREUD, 1896FREUD, S. Carta 52 (1896). Rio de Janeiro: Imago, 1975. (Edição standard das obras psicológicas completas de Sigmund Freud)), the term “translation” is used to define repression: due to displeasure, a disturbance occurs in the transcription of one register to another, a translation error. In this case, at the moment of passing from the level Wz (signs of perception: first record of conservation of perceptual traces) to those corresponding to the unconscious - Ub (preserves traces, such as conceptual memories) and Vb (verbal representations that can correspond to the ego and become aware). This prevents the re-transcription of part of the material.

In “Lituraterra”, Lacan (1971LACAN, J. Lituraterra (1971). In: LACAN, J. Outros escritos. Rio de Janeiro: Jorge Zahar, 2003.) refers to Wz as the term forged by Freud closest to the signifier. In 1958 Lacan states: “Interpretation, to decipher the diachrony of unconscious repetitions, must introduce into the synchrony of signifiers something that, suddenly, makes translation possible” (LACAN, 1958aLACAN, J. A direção do tratamento e os princípios de seu poder (1958a). In: LACAN, J. Escritos. São Paulo: Perspectiva, 1999.: p.599). So, it is not about discovering the truth when it is impossible to transcribe. The analyst introduces something new from their listening that allows a translation from an instant that is a surprise about the monotony of the repetition of a time that seemed to never pass, which was cyclical. Translation of an untranslatable: How could the analyst install an impossible operation like this?

There is a creationist aspect, which modifies the subject’s saying, which will be highlighted by Lacan (1953) with the term punctuation. Thanks to the nachträglich effect of the signifier from which the last term re-signifies the entire sentence, the analyst can interfere with the ciphered text spoken by the analysand, modifying the fixation of meaning produced by the unconscious.

Every speech implies a response, Lacan shows us. The psychoanalyst remains silent so that the analysand’s words can be heard as an answer to a fundamental question that comes from the Other. The analyst’s interpretation aims to punctuate the speech, where the emptiness that implies any speech can be heard without the answer buffering it.

In addition to “translation and punctuation”, there is a third idea also present in the Writings (LACAN, 1953LACAN, J. Função e campo da fala e da linguagem em psicanálise (1953). In: LACAN, J. Escritos. São Paulo: Perspectiva, 1999.: p. 290) formulated using the term resonance. At this point, Lacan makes an analogy with the Zen technique (Ibidem: p. 317), which aims at nonsense, the void of meaning, but also with what reverberates as misunderstanding between what is said and what is heard. The last two notions of interpretation can be approximated to the concept of a joke (FREUD, 1905), which Lacan demonstrates in seminar 5 that works as a pas-de-sens (nonsense and step of meaning), but which gains a new link to the end of Lacan’s teaching with the concept of lalangue (LACAN, 1972-73) and parlêtre . Both neological terms introduced by Lacan at the end of his teaching return, through a certain reformulation, to the concept of subject of the unconscious.

We consider that the psychoanalytic clinic with indigenous peoples can advance using this conception of resonance that appears in Lacan’s later formulations of the unconscious, due to the different languages that, although transmitted from generation to generation among peoples, come from being prevented from being spoken by the imposition of the Portuguese language. In this sense, in many peoples, the younger generations, although they speak Portuguese, keep their rituals and a series of words in the original language. In all the interviews we carried out with indigenous people from different parts of the country, the suffering resulting from the catechesis and imposition of white Western culture was considered one of the reasons for the greatest suffering among indigenous people.

It is worth highlighting what is unprecedented in Lacan’s management of time; logical and non-chronological time allows us to focus on that which escapes the imaginary and the symbolic and which Lacan named as object a. The speaker sees himself subjected by the Other, and the significant cut circumscribes the object that, at the same time, is the object that causes his desire, that is, that which constitutes for the subject an object that is missing and triggers desire as a movement and act, and the object of his fantasy, the instinctual place from which he offers himself as an object of the Other. The object of the drive is circumscribed by the cut, and this is what, after all, an analysis aims at, namely, intervening in the regime of the subject’s relationship to the object and their ways of enjoying. Throughout Lacan’s teaching, the cut takes on different conceptions to the point of becoming the purpose of the session.

2 The future of Brazil depends on responsibility in relation to Western hegemonic discourse

Known as the most famous of all the texts that have ever been written about Brazil, from 1500 until 1941 (when its first edition came out), Stefan Zweig’s work, Brazil: A Country of the Future, led this colonized country to be internationally recognized after the Second World War as the country of promise, the nation of tomorrow, the destiny of a multicolored, generous society. Its author, a Jewish, Austrian, and friend of Sigmund Freud (with a series of letters exchanged), fled the war and came to live in this tropical country as an alternative to the hatred that raged in Europe, influenced by Gilberto Freyre’s ideas about racial miscegenation and by Sérgio Buarque de Holanda about a supposed Brazilian cordiality that circulated a few years ago in restricted circles. He bet on the possible formation of a generous, peaceful, conciliatory nation opposed to the racial rancor and political madness imposed by Nazi fascism. He was one of the most translated fiction authors and biographers in the 20s and 30s of the last century and intended his book about Brazil to be about politics. Although successful among the international public, he was internally accused of supporting the terrible official propaganda machine of the Estado Novo dictatorship of Getúlio Vargas, having been fiercely criticized by Correio da Manhã. Exiled from his country as a survivor of Nazism; however, he had little time to realize where he was being thrown. Eight months after he arrived in Brazil, he committed suicide together with his wife. This “motto” Brazil, the country of the future, curiously returns in our history in an enigmatic way, to say the least; Barack Obama even uses this expression twice, and Michel Temer chooses “Brazil: bridge to the future” as the slogan for his coup government.

By articulating Psychoanalysis with Decolonization, we raise the question here that, for the psychoanalyst to effectively be able to read the social and political phenomena that plague us, it would be important to ask about the “reminiscences of the future”, in a kind of resumption, or a new one to be extracted from repetition. But this does not happen without accountability, an implication of the “reader” who, in addition to the analysand, the psychoanalyst himself, embodies, at a precise point, in the face of which he blames himself, suffers, and complains. If we want to effectively open a future that is not the same as the past, subjective rectification is necessary for symptomatic repetition. How to think about this in terms of civilization? How to think about the engagement of psychoanalysts in the crucial questions that ask us politically, the absence of which compromises psychoanalytic training and even puts the future of psychoanalysis at risk? The threat of a resurgence of fascism in Brazil, by calling into question differences, conflict, and singularities, points to a risk for the very existence of psychoanalysis.

For an analytical listening that wants to be decolonized, it is necessary to go through the contributions of decolonial authors who aim to rescue knowledge and practices that are not validated by academic canons and are subsumed, and repressed in our culture.

With Aníbal Quijano (1992QUIJANO, Aníbal. Colonialidad y Modernidad-racionalidad. In: BONILLO, Heraclio(comp.). Los conquistados. Bogotá: Tercer Mundo Ediciones; FLACSO, 1992, p. 437-449.), we have before us the complaint that colonized people were denied the right to tell their own history and to access it. Furthermore, the author states that the colonized are denied a place that is not degraded for themselves and their ancestors in the colonial narrative. It only remains for the colonized to adapt to colonial ideals in the hope of guaranteeing love and protection against helplessness in the social bond. Frantz Fanon, who points out how much the colonized in order to humanize themselves tend to resemble the colonizer, in the same direction states:

“There is a constellation of data, a series of propositions that, slowly, insidiously, through literary texts, newspapers, education, school books, posters, cinema, radio, penetrate an individual - constituting the vision of the world of the collective to which they belong.” (FANON, 2020FANON, F. Peles negras, máscaras brancas. São Paulo: Ubu Editora, 2020., pp. 167-168).

It is possible to rediscover this logic expressed by Fanon in the works and words of indigenous Brazilians. Kopenawa’s testimony in this sense points out that something very close to what Fanon says about the psychic reality experienced by Algerians: work and in the words of Brazilian indigenous people, occurs with traditional Brazilian peoples:

“I said to myself: “Why not imitate white people and become one of them?” I only wanted one thing: to look like them. That’s why I watched them all the time in silence, with great attention. I wanted to assimilate everything they said and did” (KOPENAWA, 2021KOPENAWA, D.; ALBERT, B. A queda do céu: palavras de um xamã yanomami. São Paulo: Companhia das letras, 2021., p. 283).

The colonized are continually encouraged to reproduce the system that oppresses them since they are denied the possibility of knowing or thinking beyond colonial cosmology. It is also interesting to think that the starting point of Quijano’s decolonial thought is precisely the critique of modern rationality that he also names as Coloniality. By criticizing modern reason, the author seeks to denounce it as a colonial cosmology that continues to affect and trap colonized subjects not only through the narrative of the hegemonic/colonial discourse but also through the premise that the only starting point to doing science would be European and Western epistemology. This belief, in addition to being a material remnant of colonization, subordinates all other narratives and epistemologies. It sets them to invalid status. “This was the product, in the beginning, of a systematic repression not only of specific beliefs, ideas, images, symbols or knowledge that did not serve global colonial domination.” (QUIJANO, 1992QUIJANO, Aníbal. Colonialidad y Modernidad-racionalidad. In: BONILLO, Heraclio(comp.). Los conquistados. Bogotá: Tercer Mundo Ediciones; FLACSO, 1992, p. 437-449., p. 438). The narrative of the owners of this land, the original people, is obliterated from history. And they insist on erasing, in contemporary times, their life and existence. “In the same way, even if political colonialism has been eliminated, the relationship between European culture, also called “Western”, and others continues to be a relationship of colonial domination” (Ibidem). “Like this. It consists, initially, of a colonization of the imaginary of the dominated. That is, it acts within this imaginary. (ibid). This is what makes it possible for the same hierarchical constraints imposed during colonization to continue organizing the world and societies according to their logic; that is, subalternizing, marginalizing, and silencing those who are not or do not adapt to colonial cultural conditions.

The consciousness formed from colonization by the oppressed occurs precisely from a confrontation with the otherness that controls, destroys, and formats the non-European in its own mold. Eric Dussel opposes an Ego Cogito, which introduced Science from Descartes, and with it the modern subject, to an Ego Conquiro. In other words, the subject in question is not just the one who thinks, he exists to the extent that he conquers and subjugates the Other. Freud had already demonstrated this in Civilization and its Discontents, to some extent, but he places it in a general, universal way in terms of the drive mode itself at play in the civilizational system. What decolonial authors point out is that this “civility” is imposed in a certain historical and geopolitical period, more than one over the other, in a way that is not properly explained in modern and postmodern history. The radicality of what is being neglected by such authors is that the fiction of race invented by Europeans, as well as by the science that places them at the center of reason, is that the social bond established in this case makes black people and indigenous people non-existent to the extent that colonizes them. The conqueror is, by definition, a modern type of subjectivity, according to Dussel (1993DUSSEL, E. 1492, o encobrimento do Outro: a origem do mito da modernidade. Petrópolis: Vozes, 1993.): “The conqueror” is the first active, practical modern man, who imposes his violent “individuality” on other people, on the Other” (p. 43). The conquering colonizer will present his ego to the people he intends to conquer as a champion of modernity and, thus, also of emancipation and freedom, which would only be possible naturally for himself. However, at least according to the discourse imposed by the colonizer, it could also be possible for all those who subjected themselves to modernity and identified with its projects. In the end,

“Conquest” is a military, practical, violent process that dialectically includes the Other as the “self”. The Other, in its distinction, is denied as Other and subjected, subsumed, and alienated to be incorporated into the dominating Totality as a thing. As an instrument, as an oppressed, as a “commissioned”, as a “salary worker” (on future farms), or as an African slave (on sugar mills or other tropical products). The subjectivity of the “conqueror”, in turn, was constituted, slowly unfolding in praxis (DUSSEL, 1993DUSSEL, E. 1492, o encobrimento do Outro: a origem do mito da modernidade. Petrópolis: Vozes, 1993., p. 44).

Through the invasive and violent presence of the Ego Conquiro [I conquer], there is no space for the Other in its difference. Either it looks like the conqueror exists, or it becomes a thing. The I conquer allows the Other only to submit to their paradigms and only serve them. This I conquer is a Self full of power in the face of an Other that cannot defend itself and succumbs to modernity. And why does the conqueror want to subsume this otherness into his Ego? Because “the I-conqueror” is the proto-history of the constitution of the Ego Cogito; a decisive moment was reached in its constitution as subjectivity, as “will to power” (p. 49).

3 The ancestral future: indigenous temporality in the resumption

When we visited Ilhéus, with the teams from Ocupação Bahia and Ocupação Rio, in the meeting with the original peoples, it was clear that our practice, as well as our theory, is colonizing, white, and outdated in dealing with the issues they are facing. Young indigenous people kill themselves three times more often than all other young people in the country, as they say, and the Tupinambá people are among those who have tragically experienced this reality. The living conditions, invasions, and state negligence led the Tupinambá population to suffer from hunger, lack of assistance, and environmental tragedies, among other humanitarian catastrophes. What caught our attention most when listening to them was the number of times the meaning of resumption appeared in the speeches of chiefs, indigenous representatives, SESAI professionals, and other members of this ethnic group. Resumption is a word used to refer to land that was stolen, invaded, appropriated, and destroyed, but which indigenous populations now occupy in highly unequal and cruel struggles, which, however, give them back their place. It is not just a geographical place, but a place of existence, a political place, a place of subject authenticated by the Other. Resumption was also a signifier used to talk about Tupi Guarani, the remnants of the languages spoken in the colony, before the Portuguese invasion. An indigenous Tupinambá woman created a collection behind a church, whose priest is racist and anti-indigenist, with texts whose consonants we currently use in Portuguese were absent in her language. She explains - L, F, and R (law, faith, religion). This Tupinambá explained that in schools when teaching the colonizer’s monolanguage, children are prevented from exercising their own culture and must assimilate the language, tastes, values, and way of being of the colonizers. It is only possible to be a person, to be a subject if you are similar to a European. Franz Fanon (2020FANON, F. Peles negras, máscaras brancas. São Paulo: Ubu Editora, 2020.) shows in Pele Negra Mascaras Brancas that as soon as a black person comes into contact with a white European, he already enters a state of suffering, and self-hatred because to guarantee his humanity he will need to deny his origin, customs, features, color. More than political poisoning and economic strangulation, colonization is, according to Franz Fanon (2020), a psychic intoxication.

Although Brazilian psychoanalysts have engaged in psychiatric reform and collaborated with the removal of the insane, poor, mostly black, from asylums, contributing to the fight for a society without asylums, taking their symptoms as saying, we read Franco Basaglia but we do not we serve as Franz Fanon. We reaffirm Foucault’s work at every step but we do not read Aimée Césaire. Why are European psychoanalysts always our matrix of assumption of knowledge, regardless of the daily invention we make in our clinical practice, to touch what is fundamental in the unconscious structured by Brazilian racism? Lélia Gonzales (1984) states that racism is denied in our country and constitutes Brazilian cultural neurosis.

To think about the future of psychoanalysis, we have to look into the whiteness permeating our institutions, our ways of producing knowledge, and also our clinic. Interestingly, today the logic of whiteness permeates training institutions, which are private, more than university institutions, which are more prone to ethnic-racial plurality due to the affirmative action policy implemented in recent decades in the country. The present work aims to propose that we make this subjective rectification in our own practice, based on a historical analysis of what the psychoanalytic community did not hear. Would not this be a necessary starting point to think about the ethical direction of a clinic focused on indigenous populations?

In 1895, in the text “Project for a Scientific Psychology”, Freud sought to describe the process constituting the subject as well as the psychic apparatus, that is, the process that makes a subject emerge from the operations of language: in general, the mother interprets the cry of the little helpless being and, in doing so, addresses the child and supports him as a subject in language. The question is: what language is this that constitutes the subject? Now, if we think that the hegemonic discourse tends to be the first to arrive for any child, we can conclude that this language that constitutes the psychic apparatus is woven and transmitted from it. In other words, our singular subjectivities are constituted based on the references imposed by whiteness, without this being perceived, since what is, in fact, a particularity (whiteness for example, and equally, our status as colonized, gender, etc.) usually presents itself in the dominant discourse as absent, causing this discourse to pass off as neutral, true, natural, and, in short, universal.

When we consider the cosmology of various peoples in interviews with indigenous people of different ethnicities, we rediscover, in different ways, what we learned from the Yanomami; three things that stand out to us: the first is the social organization based on a collective going beyond the limits of what we understand as a group, or mass in modern Western culture; the second is that dreams have a privileged place and at the same time related to what Freud proposes as a means of unconscious elaboration of psychic reality and desire, and the third is that the notion of time for the inhabitants of the forests presents a different logic from our usual, conscientious logic and which, because it is much more directly linked to the temporality that is present and constitutes the subject, can teach us a lot about our approach to the unconscious in a clinic with indigenous peoples.

We were able to extract from the interviews and also from the beginning of the clinic we carried out among indigenous people that dreams often have an important place, which is not restricted only to what Freud can distinguish, from the dream elaboration necessary to the psychic life of each subject. There is a very particular place given to dreams in the lives of different ethnicities, which privileges the dream as a real event - that is, as a given, together with others (such as the course of rivers, the seasons, the small and major events in nature and the world, and the messages that these events contain, present, for example), is part of, permeates and constitutes the life of that community and individuals.

Through dreams, one can access otherness. You can learn about the meaning of rivers and the lives of animals, and equally, establish contact with ancestors and listen to what they say, what they point out, and what they come to teach. In many ways, dreams have a function in the community that aligns with function and contact with ancestors.

In this sense, the dream takes on the role of conveying a certain truth to which one would not have immediate access. And this truth that dreams convey, as Freud had also noted, must be received, listened to, and above all, made to resonate. This was the main characteristic we were able to formulate about the place of dreams in the lives of different ethnicities: it is possible to see that the practice of sharing dreams among indigenous communities is quite common and is part of a collective perspective, with this resonance - which connects the individual to alterity in the context of a community and a given moment in life and the issues presented in the collective - the main operation of “dream interpretation” is received and acts, above all, in favor of weaving, renewing, and sustaining bonds constituting that community.

Considering what Freud introduces about the importance of dream reporting, we can say that indigenous peoples take the practice of sharing dreams as a privileged place for encountering otherness to radicality. Would this be a preliminary indicator for us to consider the perspective of managing the unconscious in clinics with indigenous peoples? While we tend to encounter ourselves, in our dreams, with our fellows, and our imaginary projections, and even when addressed to the analyst as Other or as an object cause, some indigenous people report that they dream with and for the collective. Some claim the practice of telling their dreams to older wise men, shamans, and chiefs. The meaning of the dream helps you decide how to behave during the day, whether there will be a good harvest, whether it is appropriate to go fishing or not, enter a battle, and what the ritual will be like that day. Some people share dreams with other members of the villages as a morning practice, where the saying extracted from the dream production can find different destinations and among them a political decision of that village.

How can we receive what Ailton Krenak pointed out when stated that “the future is ancestral”?


The elements of nature, in addition to being speakers, are interpreters. This is teaching for us Westerners because, in the white and neoliberal cosmogony, societies are rigorously organized according to individualist logic to the detriment of the collective. We are forced to cling to a future that is stolen from us by the very rigor of the system of capitalist exploration, production, and consumption, which takes nature and the environmental ecosystem directly onto the path of destruction. However, as Dilmar Puri states in an interview with Ágora, it is humans who have their days numbered on Earth and not the planet. Western man lives to produce and consume and anticipates a cyclical future about what has been silenced from his past, which becomes oppressive, self-destructive, and exploitative of other people’s work, if not the murderer of other populations or his own. After all, what is the future that neoliberalism promises, if not one that revolves around accumulation, access to consumption through work, and even the offering of oneself as an object of consumption, where the time to live and coexist has disappeared?

In Yanomami cosmology and other indigenous cosmologies, there are new possibilities. “Yanomami dreams are a way of relating to the world and to others who inhabit this world” (LIMULJA, 2023, p. 10). Both temporality and subjective existence are directed toward the collective. A community that has an absolutely different notion of the apprehension we have. It is a notion of collectives that undermines our barriers of temporality. Present, past, and future merge into one thing. This allows practically unrestricted access to ancestors and the possibilities of being, in the sense of being the whole. The collective here means a symbiosis with multiple possibilities of being and existing. Existing as a more comprehensive possibility and implicated in such a notion of collective is something feasible for original peoples. If we take back the narratives stolen from us, we will have much more powerful possibilities for existence and survival, which, it seems, will only be possible with the recognition that the only possible future is, in fact, ancestral. Coloniality does not summarize the history of the world in the same way that our Brazilian ancestors were never truly silent, as they speak a language that the colonizer and the capitalist will never be able to hear: the language of the collective, of nature, counter-production, and counter-consumption. The language of rivers, roots, and mountains. The language of Omama and the Xapiri.

From Lacan, we learned there is no subject without the Other, in the same way that there is no Self without the unconscious. There is a Moebian relationship, that is, what concerns the interweaving of an apparent opposition between the interior and exterior. Why is the encounter with otherness always traumatic? Otherness is the unconscious, it is the discourse of the Other. Because it is an encounter that fatally narcissistically wounds the Self, in the sense that everything that is unpleasant or that goes out of line with the ideals to which the Self clings, will be projected onto the Other and the external world. Not surprisingly, it tends to be seen as a threat, since it says something about the subject that he does not want to have contact with, as it is the opposite of his ideals or the Ideal of Self.

That said, we can ask ourselves what can psychoanalysis learn from indigenous cosmologies?

What do they both have in common? Now, if we know with Freud that dreams are the royal road to the unconscious, with the indigenous people, we can think of something more comprehensive. The dream is the royal road to blur the space-time barriers between past, present, and future so that they can freely converge. In the words of Kopenawa (2021KOPENAWA, D.; ALBERT, B. A queda do céu: palavras de um xamã yanomami. São Paulo: Companhia das letras, 2021.): “Becoming a ghost, in dream time or under the influence of yakoana, I used to see white people tearing up our land, as they do with theirs. This left me very distressed and soon the image of Omama came to me” (p. 327). It is through dreams that the wisdom of the ancestors can be accessed so that it is as if in the dreams of the original people there could be an alignment between past, present, and future. The ancestors were explained to us by some indigenous people interviewed; they are all those who came before, but also those who are here and now... Through dreams, the original people sew, in the bond, a future indicated by the ancestors. The future, in this way, can only be ancestral because it is in ancestry and the transmission of this that the present materializes. Like psychoanalysis, in indigenous cosmologies, the unconscious and otherness have a privileged place. However, while psychoanalysis deals with the issues one by one in the clinic, indigenous cosmologies invite us to extract the real from the dream and the question of truth that it brings to the collective.

A pluriversity, where everyone is a teacher, and everyone is a student. That’s it, it’s exchange, it’s conversation, it’s experience, it’s living, it’s you living. I have a very big issue because Western society imposes that I have to work, the way they tell me to. And what do I want to do? So there is this duality, between the other and ourselves, we are collective beings (SANTOS, 2023, in the press).

Because it is in the context of the collective that otherness seems to present itself from a privileged place.

The end of the afternoon is the moment when nostalgia emerges and the beginning of the day of the dead, of spirits. Here there is an inversion between day/night. The night of the Yanomami is equivalent to the day of the pore (dead). It is through this inversion we seek to indicate how, in the theory of the Yanomami person, the utupë (image) is the locus of feelings, thoughts, and volition. In the Yanomami Forest, everything has an utupë; and it is through dreams that these images can be found (LIMULJA, 2023LIMUHJA, H. O desejo dos outros: uma etnografia dos sonhos yanomami. São Paulo: Editora Ubu, 2022., p. 10).

This collective elaboration in the present is loaded with the past - ancestry - and, consequently, with the future. In this sense, original peoples are much more aware of the inseparability between the collective and the individual, as well as between the Self and otherness. However, they do so in a more comprehensive way, since their notion of collective is not restricted to the present time, the body, and its time. “To think about time, we need to get out of this body thing. You want it to be yours, but time proves that the body is not yours. Every moment the body is a being, it is an entity. Imagining this way allows you to think about time” (CACIQUE PAYAYA, 2023, in the press). Existence is beyond the body. In this way, unlike us, life continues in other relatives, for example when there is engagement in political struggle, the individual is not the most important, life continues in that forest, in the river, in the capybara; a more direct self-implication that points out that the only possibility for the future is to know the ancestors who are present in each of these beings and relatives. We, as Krenak (2022KRENAK, A. O futuro ancestral. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2022.) points out, have no memory, and thus condemn everyone’s future.

I think the best definition of dreams in general for indigenous peoples is the one given by Davi Kopenawa, Yanomami, in his book. He said that his dream is the Indian school, he has it in his book, with Bruce Albert. When the Indian wants to learn something, he sleeps, he takes something to sleep, it’s not Rivotril, it’s snuff, ancestral things that get much better, then he will dream and there he will have contact with his ancestors, and will learn about what he needs to know to solve some things, some certain path to solve some area (PURI, 2023, in the press).

The collective here means a symbiosis with multiple possibilities of being and existing. These possibilities allow confluent existence with ancestors and nature, in which everything speaks, everything is expressed and everything exists in an intertwined way; “We are everywhere, because our ancestors, the mountain-rivers, are everywhere” (KRENAK, 2022KRENAK, A. O futuro ancestral. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2022., p.12). Unlike the capitalist utilitarian logic that seeks to subject everything and everyone to the system of production, exploitation, and consumption, here we have the idea that while the fish in a river die due to pollution, people are also condemned to die; “stone and water involve us in such a wonderful way that they allow us to combine the we: we-river, we-mountains, we-earth” (KRENAK, 2022KRENAK, A. O futuro ancestral. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2022., p. 14).

In Viveiros de Castro’s (2004) Amerindian perspective, there is the premise of removing Western culture from the category of norm. By placing two cultures in a relationship, on an equal basis, there is a real opening to learn something new with the meanings of that other culture. In the proposal of classical anthropology, the concepts of another culture end up being lost because it is taken as an exotic object. In perspectivism, the proposal is that the other culture represents a different norm. Thus, it is possible to incorporate new elements and no longer fall into the trap of reading another culture through the lens of white cosmology. It is like a meeting between two languages. In classical anthropology, when encountering another language, new words are translated and adapted to the norms of the Cartesian worldview. Nothing new is learned because this other language is restricted to the place of foreignness. Perspectivism incorporates concepts without being translated into the anthropologist’s language and, thus, new elements emerge that generate an opening for teaching and learning through the difference of absolutely distinct cosmologies. Through new words, the encounter between different languages, more due to their resonance than their semantics, there is an expansion of readings that allows a frank listening to the truth of otherness. It allows us to think about other ways of existing, and other worldviews, and decentralize modernity, Cartesianism, and whiteness. It is in this direction that we must read the concept of Temimotara.

“There are two desires. One is the immediate one, of the body. And the other is a superior will that we, indigenous people, usually call Temimotara. It would be an element of such superiority that it is greater than time. It is, without a doubt, an element capable of producing the collective. And without it, you can produce the individual, but not the collective, without the ‘will’. So, when we look back a while ago, there was a time when time did not exist” (CACIQUE PAYAYA, 2023, in the press)

If we translate, we lose the dimension of confluences, which is one of the most central characteristics of the way of creating ties in indigenous cosmologies.


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Publication Dates

  • Publication in this collection
    11 Dec 2023
  • Date of issue


  • Received
    28 Sept 2023
  • Accepted
    16 Nov 2023
Programa de Pós-graduação em Teoria Psicanalítica do Instituto de Psicologia da Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro - UFRJ Instituto de Psicologia UFRJ, Campus Praia Vermelha, Av. Pasteur, 250 - Pavilhão Nilton Campos - Urca, 22290-240 Rio de Janeiro RJ - Rio de Janeiro - RJ - Brazil