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One of the habits of clinical psychoanalysis is to avoid the political that is container and sustainer of the individual and her family. The political context of the ancient greeks is easy to overlook from within some literary methods that view greek myths only from a particular lens, for example the Victorian family unit, while claiming a timeless unconscious. I would call this approach to psychoanalysis anti-historical. The trouble is, even the unconscious has to get born and live some place, in some history that is bigger than a family. Families are vastly different through time and place. So in the tradition of cultural criticism, I advocate a historic approach with a telescopic frame, one that can zoom in and out of a person and her societies. A movable frame and dilating focus are features of a situated psychoanalysis.

Interpreting Medusa as a timeless symbol of castration is an anti-historical error. A historical interpretation would acknowledge that the image of hair as snakes is most visually syntonic with African braids or locks, and to imagine the encounters of Greeks with north Africans as economic and religious contests and physical encounters on the battlefield. For Perseus to identify his enemy by her hair and steal her vitality for his own shield is still psychoanalytically interpretable as castration and his fear of it, but with an important defensive wrinkle (to his balls naturally.) It is her hair that he has fetishized as the difference that is her power. Fearful and seductive first as a geopolitical rival, she is a legitimately powerful competitor and obstacle to his ambition. 

Female power need not be mothering to be terrifying. Mothering, at least in the nuclear or Victorian sense, is not a necessary or universal starting place for male envy and castration fear. Nations and tribes can be feared as rivals in a twinship transference. She can be a sister who does not want you. An heir with a legitimate claim to the crown, or a despot who despoils. History confirms that she can be your equal in conquest and dominion.

Hair politics is geopolitics in the frame of the body, gendered and raced now and in ancient days. European descendants envy, steal, and destroy African vitality and forget that Mediterranean hair is kinky as often as not. But sometimes snake-like hair is snake-like hair, and we only wish it was rightfully ours.

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