The Haunting Melody of Loss in the Racist Imagination – Narendra Keval and Prof David Gadd

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talkResearch


In his paper, Narendra Keval focused on the appeal of racist fantasies and the political leaders who exploit them, by interrogating the narratives of race in two recent events, namely the turmoil in American politics through what some have called Trumpism and Brexit, the decision to leave the European Union. He suggests that when we get underneath the surface of this rhetoric, there is a predictable constellation of thoughts and feelings that create a racist imagination whose emotional atmosphere is melancholic and potentially murderous. Its haunting melody culminates in grievances and hatreds that coalesce and find expression in a predatory, socially sanctioned and opportunistic structure in racism which serves to bind all the emotional turmoil of ungrieved losses into a toxic amalgam, locked into melancholic responses. Where the shadow of the object falls upon the ego in melancholia, in racism this shadow wreaks havoc on the dark stranger.

In his response, David Gadd explained how many ungrieved losses featured in the lives of the people he interviewed Stoke-on-Trent, and how they featured in hateful attacks mounted by racial harassment perpetrators. Using narrative interview data, David flagged the importance of understanding when and why melancholic feelings are redirected in violent and hateful ways, and of contemplating the specific meanings ‘race’ is invested with in such instances. David’s paper concluded by highlighting what can be done to enhance the psychosocial strengths of those subject to racialised forms of othering and by posing the question of how psychoanalysis might challenge the vested interest some political elites have established in retelling a version of British history that exploits the haunting melody of loss experienced by the least fortunate for pernicious purposes.
Period12 Jul 2022
Held atThe British Psychoanalytical Society, United Kingdom
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • racism
  • hate crime
  • loss
  • psychoanalysis

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Global inequalities
  • Policy@Manchester