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Nancy Chodorow
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Object Relations Theory

Nancy Chodorow is a feminist who found inspiration in Melanie Klein's work with Object Relations Theory


"Nancy Chodorow received her PhD from Brandeis University in 1975. She studied under the protofeminist psychoanalytic sociology of Philip Slater. It was he who urged Chodorow to focus on unconscious phenomena if she wanted to understand personality. Chodorow sites Slater's book, Glory of Hera, influenced by Whiting and Whiting as one of the most powerful accounts of the psychodynamics of male fear of women and its cultural institutionalization.

Chodorow states that:

The centrality of sex and gender in the categories of psychoanalysis, coupled with the tenacity, emotional centrality and sweeping power in our lives of our sense of gendered self, made psychoanalysis a particularly apposite source of feminist theorizing.

She believes that psychoanalytic feminism has a rather complex history. Personally, Chodorow sees the political and theoretical origins arising out of the work of Karen Horney, a second generation analyst whose early essays on femininity forcefully challenged Freud. She asserts a model of women with positive primary feminine qualities and self valuation against Freud's model of the defective and/or limited female.

She also cites the work of Melanie Klein as a source of inspiration and valid tool to counter critique Lacanian feminist thought. She writes:

Object relation theorists, emerging from and reacting to the work of Melanie Klein, image a course of transactions between self and other(s) that help form our first subjectivity and sense of self, and that throughout life are renegotiated to recreate the sense of self and others in term of connection, separation and in between. These transactions give depth and richness of meaning to experience, by resonating with the past and with constructions of the past. (10)

Working towards a more theoretical psychoanalytic feminism, object relational transformation turned the traditional psychoanalysis from the son and father relationship to a psychology of the relation to the mother in children of both sexes, a reading not as directly tied to the idea of cultural gender as Freudian thought." (