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To Sit on the Earth: An Ethno-Memoir (The French List)

To Sit on the Earth: An Ethno-Memoir (The French List)

Current price: $27.00
Publication Date: August 5th, 2024
Seagull Books


A stirring memoir of exile and self-discovery by a central figure in ethno-psychiatry.

In To Sit on the Earth, pioneering ethno-psychiatrist Tobie Nathan charts his intellectual and emotional journey, from his youthful infatuation with Freud and Wilhelm Reich to his mature adoption of anthropologist Georges Devereux’s ethnographic approach to psychoanalysis.

Expelled from Egypt as a Jew in 1956 when he was just a boy, Nathan spent his formative years on the outskirts of Paris. Caught up in situationist and Marxist politics, he enthusiastically participated in the revolutionary Events of May 1968. He then settled into a distinguished career as a writer, professor, and founding director of a free ethno-psychiatry clinic serving migrant populations in the French capital. Along the way, Nathan’s field research and practice took him to Benin, Burundi, and Brazil, where he sought out sorcerers, shamans, and other indigenous healers. As he did so, he encountered telling echoes of his ancestors’ age-old practices in Judeo-Arab Cairo.

Combining case histories and theoretical reflections with personal and familial anecdotes, while engaging with contemporary thinkers—including Sartre, Lacan, Bourdieu, and Foucault—this multi-layered, genre-defying memoir invites us to reconsider the beliefs that connect us to others and ourselves. To Sit on the Earth lays out a subtle, compelling case for the theological and cultural diversity essential to a thriving modernity.

About the Author

Tobie Nathan is professor emeritus of psychology at Université–Paris VIII in France. He is the author of a dozen novels and numerous psychoanalytic studies.

Joyce Zonana is a writer, literary translator, and professor emerita of English at the City University of New York. 

Janet Lee is a translator, essayist, and editor from rural Nevada currently based in Brooklyn. She is the host of Another Way to Say, a reading series in translation, and a communications coordinator for the Wildenstein Plattner Institute and the Fonds WPI.