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By Charles L. Briggs

Cite As:
Briggs, Charles L. 2014. “Dear Dr. Freud.” Cultural Anthropology 29, no. 2: 312–343.


Framed as a letter to Sigmund Freud, this text weaves precariously between psychoanalytic interpretations of mourning and laments sung during an epidemic of an unknown disease in the Delta Amacuro rain forest of Venezuela in 2008. This encounter extends reflection on the ways that Freud, Klein, Laplanche, Nasio, and other psychoanalysts have characterized “the work of mourning,” urging attention to the poetics, acoustics, and bodily materiality of lamentation. Focusing on a meeting that took place just before the burial of a young man, it explores claims made by lamenters on audiences, interpellating them into particular modes of listening and demanding attention to the politics of the circulation of images of lives and deaths. This intersection between psychoanalysis and lamentation provides a challenge to rethink the nature of anthropological research and writing.


psychoanalysis; mourning; laments; circulation; indigeneity; epidemiology; epidemics; rabies; Sigmund Freud; Venezuela; Latin America