Empathy An Impossible Task? Engaging with Groups in a Troubling Brexit Landscape


Yates C & MacRury I (2021) Empathy An Impossible Task? Engaging with Groups in a Troubling Brexit Landscape. Psychoanalysis, Culture and Society, 26 (4), pp. 473-496.

The Brexit referendum produced a tumultuous reminder of the emotional-affective dimensions of political life in the UK. This article attends to affective dimensions in political experience, and the fantasies and identifications that shape engagement within the shifting landscapes of politics and the structures of feeling that underpin them. The article reflects on a project undertaken 2016-2019 in which we convened eight groups of ‘Leavers’ and ‘Remainers’ with an explicit questioning of the place and possibility of ‘empathy’ in the small spaces of a widening political fray. Through detailed thematic analysis of the group experiences and discourses, including personal-reflective accounts from the group conductor, we discuss ‘clusters of preoccupation’ characteristic of these groups and the impossibility of researching empathy within the turbulent psycho-political mood of a Brexit landscape.

Brexit; empathy; containment/ failures of containment; groups

Psychoanalysis, Culture and Society: Volume 26, Issue 4

Publication date31/12/2021
Publication date online31/10/2021
Date accepted by journal21/07/2021