Devereux, Georges (1908-1985)

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Georges Devereux, an ethnopsychoanalyst, was born György Dobo on September 13, 1908, in Transylvania, Hungary, and died in Paris in 1985. His ashes were dispersed according to Mohave funeral rites in Parker, Arizona. Dobo assumed the name Georges Devereux in 1932, the same year he converted to Catholicism. He spent his childhood and adolescence in Lugos (Transylvania), his birthplace, which was annexed by Romania in 1919. He was the youngest of three children; the eldest committed suicide during adolescence. Devereux's family was well off and cultivated, polyglot, and riven with conflicts. His pro-German mother systematically objected to the pro-French sentiments of the rest of the family.

Devereux displayed considerable musical talent as a child, both as a pianist and composer, and he wrote poetry. He left Bavaria for Paris in 1926, frequented Parisian literary circles, and formed friendships with a number of famous individuals among them, including Klaus Mann. In 1927 he published poems and essays, written in German, in French avant-garde journals like Eugène Ionesco's Transitions. He oscillated between lifestyles and professions: bookseller, writer, physicist, chemist, mathematician, sociologist, ethnologist. In Paris during the early thirties, he studied with Marcel Mauss and Lucien LévyBruhl, and then with Alfred Kroeber at the University of California, Berkeley. From there he left on his first expedition to live among the Mohave Indians, to whom he remained emotionally and scientifically attached. The following year he traveled to the high plateaus of Indochina to study the Sedang Moi (1933-1935).

His experiences in the field led him to psychoanalysis and transcultural psychiatry in 1938. Ethnopyschoanalysis and ethnopsychiatry developed in response to the cultural relativism of the time. Devereux was in Paris at the end of the Second World War, where he served in the U.S. navy, and began his own psychoanalysis with Marc Schlumberger. After returning to the United States, he worked with Karl Menninger at the Menninger Clinic at the University of Kansas at Topeka, from 1946 to 1953. Indian veterans suffering from traumatic neuroses were his patients. He practiced psychoanalysis and became a member, in 1952, of the International Psychoanalytic Association (IPA) and the Philadelphia and New York Psychoanalytic Societies. He taught at Temple University in Philadelphia.

Devereux returned to Paris in 1963. He became a member of the Société Psychanalytique de Paris in 1964, and taught ethnopsychiatry and psychoanalysis at theÉcole des HautesÉtudes en Sciences Sociales and, occasionally, at Oxford University.

Devereux's published works comprise more than four hundred contributions. His articles, reports, and monographs range from a detailed descriptive approach to the psychopathology and therapeutic practices of the Mohave and Sedang peoples, to the psychoanalytic interpretation of Greek mythology, to considerations of the mental disturbances of Western societies, and the methodological difficulties in the social sciences. He was in contact with American anthropologists, including Margaret Mead and Ralph Linton, but never abandoned his analytic approach. He introduced methodological concepts such as "complementarity" and "transculturalism" and opened new fields of investigation by integrating psychoanalytic, psychiatric, ethnological, and mythological explanations.

Simone Valentin

See also: Basic Problems of Ethnopsychiatry .


Devereux, Georges. (1953). Cultural factors in psychoanalytic therapy. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 1, 4, 629-655.

. (1970). Essais d'ethnopsychiatrie générale Paris, Gallimard,.

. (1985). Ethnopsychanalyse complémentariste. Paris, Flammarion. (Original work published 1972)

. (1978). L'ethnopsychiatrie. Ethnopsychiatrica 1, 1, 7-13.

Devereux, Georges; and Simon, Bennett. (1976). Dreams in Greek tragedy. An ethno-psychoanalytical study. Berkeley, Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Hook, R. (Ed.) (1979). Fantasy and symbol; studies in anthropological interpretation, essay in honor of George Devereux. London: Academic Press.

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Devereux, Georges (1908-1985)

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