Kestemberg-Hassin, Evelyne (1918-1989)

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Evelyne Kestemberg-Hassin, a French psychoanalyst and a permanent member and former president of the Société psychanalytique de Paris (Paris Psychoanalytic Society), was born on May 28, 1918, in Constantinople and died on April 17, 1989, in Paris. The daughter of a French father (who was a merchant) and a Jewish Russian mother (who fled the revolution of 1917), she came to France soon after she was born. She earned a university degree in philosophy. In 1942 she left occupied France for Mexico, and in the course of her travels she met Jean Kestemberg, who soon became her husband. On her return to France in late 1945, she joined the Communist Party and remained in the party until 1956.

After undergoing analysis with Marc Schlumberger, she devoted herself to psychoanalysis. An analyst who worked with children, she practiced group therapy as inspired by Jacob Moreno at the Centre psychopédagogique Claude-Bernard (Claude Bernard Psychoanalytic Training Center) and eventually joined Serge Lebovici and René Diatkine in their work. Together they created individual psychoanalytic psychodrama. Their assessment of ten years of psychodramatic practice with children and adolescents (Lebovici et al., 1958) showed a wide range of perspectives in their research. Le psychodrame psychanalytique (1987; Psychoanalytic psychodrama), written in collaboration with Philippe Jeammet, was the culmination of her long practice.

At the time of the creation of the Centre Alfred-Binet (Alfred Binet Center), founded by Philippe Paumelle in 1958 and part of the Centre de santé mentale (Mental Health Center) of Paris, Kestemberg was working closely with Diatkine and Lebovici. Her article "L'identité et l'identification chez les adolescents" (1962; Identity and identification in adolescents) was a landmark. Elected as a training analyst the following year, she was the first nonphysician woman since Marie Bonaparte to become a permanent member of the Paris Psychoanalytic Society. The report for the 1965 Congress of Psychoanalysts Working in the Romance Languages, written jointly with Jean Kestemberg, compared her authority in developmental psychoanalysis to those of the Americans Heinz Hartmann, Ernst Kris, and Rudolf Löwenstein.

As president of the Paris Psychoanalytic Society in 1971, Kestemberg actively took part in the work of the society, and in 1980 she became coeditor, with Jean Gillibert and Claude Girard, of the Revue française de psychanalyse. She also collaborated with Raymond de Saussure in forming the Fédération européenne de psychanalyse (European Federation of Psychoanalysis). The year 1972 saw the publication of La faim et le corps: une étude psychanalytique de l'anorexie mentale (Hunger and the body: a psychoanalytic study of mental anorexia), written by Kestemberg together with Simone Descobert and Jean Kestemberg. This book led to the theoretical notion of "cold," or nondelusional, psychosis and remains an authority on its topic.

On the death of Jean Kestemberg, who, with the help of René Angelergues, had just created the Centre de psychanalyse et de psychothérapie du XIIIe (Psychoanalytic and Psychotherapeutic Center of the Thirteenth Arrondissement, Paris) for psychotic patients, Evelyne Kestemberg assumed the directorship of the center. There, from 1975 to 1988, she avidly pursued her clinical and theoretical teaching activities and took part in seminars, notably as part of a small circle that included Alain Gibault, Colette Guedeney, and Benno Rosenberg. She developed a deeper understanding of psychosis and put in place such notions as a fetishistic relation to the object, a phobia of mental functioning, and the third-party persona. She set herself apart from Melanie Klein: her intent was to not be identified with anyone else. The center's publication, Les cahiers du centre (Center Notes), launched in 1980, set for itself the mission of presenting, with clinical illustrations, such notions as the splitting of the ego, negation, the delusional solution, excitation, and word presentations and thing presentations. A remarkable clinical practitioner, Kestemberg was part of a pioneering and creative generation.

Liliane Abensour

See also: Adolescence; Anorexia nervosa; Autistic capsule/nucleus; Displacement of the transference; Fédération européenne de psychanalyse; France; Kestemberg, Jean; Société psychanalytique de Paris and Institut de psychanalyse de Paris.


Abensour, Liliane. (1999). Evelyne Kestemberg. Paris: Presses universitaires de France.

Kestemberg, Evelyne. (1962). L'identité et l'identification chez les adolescents: problèmes techniques et théoriques. Psychiatrie de l'enfant, 5 (2): 441-552.

. (1978). La relation fétichiqueà l'objet: quelques notations. Revue française de psychanalyse, 42 (2): 195-214.

. (1999). L'adolescenceà vif. Paris: Presses universitaires de France. Kestemberg, Evelyne. (2001). La psychose froide. Paris: Presses universitaires de France.

Kestemberg, Evelyne, and Jeammet, Philippe. (1987). Le psychodrame psychanalytique. Paris: Presses universitaires de France.

Kestemberg, Evelyne; Kestemberg, Jean; and Descobert, Simone. (1972). La faim et le corps: une étude psychanalytique de l'anorexie mentale. Paris: Presses universitaires de France.

Lebovici, Serge; Diatkine, René; and Kestemberg, Evelyne. (1958). Bilan de dix ans de thérapeutique par le psycho-drame chez l'enfant et l'adolescent. Psychiatrie de l'enfant, 1 (1), 63-180.