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George Devereux (born György Dobó on 13 September 1908 — 28 May 1985) was an American - French ethnologist and psychoanalyst, born in a Jewish family from Banat. He was one of the pioneers of ethnopsychoanalysis and ethnopsychiatry.



Devereux was born in Lugoj in the Banat, now in Romania and then part of Austria-Hungary. Devereux’s family, like Géza Róheim's, was Hungarian Jewish and bourgeois. His father was a lawyer, his mother of German origin. Devereux had a rather difficult relation with his mother. The "insincerity of the adults", their "lack of respect for the world of the children" [1] was a formative experience of his childhood and youth.

Even as a youngster Devereux spoke four languages (Hungarian, Romanian, German, French).

After an unsuccessful operation Devereux had to give up his wish to become a pianist. After the suicide of his brother Devereux went to Paris to study chemistry and physics with Marie Curie. He was looking for ‘objective truth’ in physics and 'subjective' truth in music. In his later work Devereux often referred to notions taken from the natural sciences. Devereux became ill and moved to Leipzig to begin an apprenticeship in a publishing house. After completing his apprenticeship Devereux returned to Paris. He enrolled at the École des langues orientales studying the Malay language, became a pupil of Marcel Mauss, befriended himself with Klaus Mann and wrote a novel «Le faune dans l’enfer bourgeois» [The faun in the bourgeois hell] which remained unpublished.

In 1933 György Dobó converted to Christianity and henceforth was called George(s) Devereux. Thanks to a scholarship from the Rockefeller Foundation he moved to the United States to prepare fieldwork with Mohave Indians. His early days in America proved to be difficult. "Among the young American anthropologists with whom he collaborated during his preparative stage he encountered only distrust and contempt when, being asked about his teachers, he mentioned the names Mauss, Rivet and Lévy-Bruhl, he said.”[2]

Before he left for Indochina to live among the Sedang Moi, Devereux spent some time with Mohave Indians. Devereux considered that this time had been the happiest of his life. The Mohave pay a lot of attention to their dreams, it’s them who "converted me to Freud"[3]. Devereux received his PhD working with Alfred Kroeber.

From 1943 he served in the American army.

Devereux was analyzed by Marc Schlumberger and Robert Jokl and completed his analytical training in 1952 at the Menninger Clinic (Topeka, Kansas). From 1953 to 1955 he worked with children and teenagers and in 1956 he moved to New York City. He became a member of the American Psychoanalytic Association and the Société Psychanalytique de Paris.

On the initiative of Claude Lévi-Strauss he was invited to teach at the École pratique des hautes études in Paris in 1963 where he continued to teach up until 1981. His methodological main work From anxiety to method in the behavioral sciences was published in 1967. During the last years of his life Devereux worked as a graecist and published a book about dreams in Greek tragedies.


In From anxiety to method in the behavioral sciences Devereux proposes to rethink the question of the relation between the observer and the observed. Devereux takes his guidance from psychoanalysis. According to him, the classical methodological principle which prescribes to the researcher to make his observations from a strictly objective point of view is not only impossible to put into practice but outrightly counterproductive. Instead the observer should place himself in the middle of the process and keep in mind that whatever he may observe is always influenced by his own activity of observing.

More precisely, the only data to which the observer actually has access to are his own perceptions, his reaction to reactions he himself had provoked. According to Devereux the observer must think about his relation to the observed in the same manner an analyst would do in his relation to his analysand. The analyst works with the transference he triggers and with the countertransference he can perceive looking at himself. In any study where the subject under scrutiny is the subjectivity of human beings (ore even of animals), this procedure has to be applied, according to Devereux.

Besides using his own experience Devereux studied carefully Claude Lévi-Strauss' Tristes tropiques [A World on the Wane], Georges Balandiers Afrique ambiguë [Ambiguous Africa : cultures in collision] and Condominas' L'Exotique au quotidien "[…] which are the only major attempts known to me to appraise the impact of his data and of his scientific activity upon the scientist." [4]


As it had been the case during most of his lifetime, there seems to be more interest in Devereux in Europe then in North America. In France Tobi Nathan und Marie Rose Moro continue Devereux's ethnopsychiatric work, especially in psychotherapy with migrants. In Switzerland the second generation of the "Zurich School" of ethnopsychoanalysis (Mario Erdheim, Maya Nadig, Florence Weiss etc.) has been heavily influenced by Devereux's methodological approach.


  1. ^ Bokelmann 1987, S. 10
  2. ^ Bokelmann 1987, S. 16
  3. ^ Georges Devereux: Es gibt eine kulturell neutrale Psychotherapie. Gespräch mit Georges Devereux. In: Hans Jürgen Heinrichs (hg.): Das Fremde verstehen. Gespräche über Alltag, Normalität und Anormalität. Qumran, Frankfurt, Paris 1982, S. 15-32, citation p.20)
  4. ^ Georges Devereux, From anxiety to method in the behavorial sciences, The Hague, Paris. Mouton & Co, 1967

Writings (Selection)

Devereux has published more than 400 texts. Among them:

  • Reality and dream: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian, New York: International Univ. Press, 1951
  • A study of abortion in primitive societies; a typological, distributional, and dynamic analysis of the prevention of birth in 400 preindustrial societies, New York, Julian Press 1955
  • From anxiety to method in the behavioral sciences, The Hague [etc..]: Mouton, 1967
  • Ethnopsychoanalysis : psychoanalysis and anthropology as complementary frames of reference, Berkeley : University of California Press, 1978
  • Basic problems of ethnopsychiatry , Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980
  • Dreams in Greek Tragedy: An Ethno-Psycho-Analytical Study, University of California Press, 1975
  • Mohave ethnopsychiatry and suicide : the psychiatric knowledge and the psychic disturbances of an Indian tribe, St. Clair Shores, Mich. : Scholarly Press, 1976
  • Les Femmes et les psychotiques dans les sociétés traditionelles, (edited by Devereux), Paris 1981
  • Baubo, la vulve mythique, Paris : J.-C. Godefroy, 1983
  • Femme et Mythe, Paris : Flammarion, 1982
  • The character of the Euripidean Hippolytos : an ethno-psychoanalytical study, Chico, Calif. : Scholars Press, 1985.
  • Cléomène le roi fou. Etude d'histoire ethnopsychanalytique, Paris : Aubier Montaigne, 1998, ISBN 2700721144

Secondary literature


  • Andrew P. Lyons, Harriet D. Lyons, Irregular Connections: A History of Anthropology and Sexuality (Critical Studies in the History of Anthropology), Paperback Edition, University of Nebraska Press, 2005
  • Simone Valentin, “Devereux, Georges (1908-1985)” in: International dictionary of psychoanalysis, Detroit: Thomson Gale 2005, vol. 1, A-F, pp. 409-410


  • Marie-Christine Beck: La jeunesse de Georges Devereux. Un chemin peu habituel vers la psychanalyse. In: Revue Internationale d'Histoire de la Psychanalyse, 1991, 4, pp. 581-603
  • Elisabeth Burgos, Georges Devereux, Mohave: Le Coq Héron, n°109, 1988, pp. 71-75
  • Françoise Michel-Jones: Georges Devereux et l'ethnologie française. Rencontre et malentendu. In: Nouvelle revue d'Ethnopsychiatrie, 1986, n°6, pp. 81-94
  • Simone Valantin-Charasson, Ariane Deluz: Contrefiliations et inspirations paradoxales. Georges Devereux (1908-1985). In: Revue Internationale d'Histoire de la Psychanalyse. 1991, 4, pp. 605-617


  • Georges Devereux: Es gibt eine kulturell neutrale Psychotherapie. Gespräch mit Georges Devereux. In: Hans Jürgen Heinrichs (hg.): Das Fremde verstehen. Gespräche über Alltag, Normalität und Anormalität. Frankfurt, Paris: Qumran, 1982, pp. 15-32
  • Ulrike Bokelmann: Georges Devereux. In: Hans Peter Duerr: Die wilde Seele. Zur Ethnopsychoanalyse von Georges Devereux, Frankfurt: Suhrkamp 1987, pp. 9-31
  • Klaus-Dieter Brauner: Kultur und Symptom. Über wissenschaftstheoretische und methodologische Grundlagen von George Devereux' Konzeption einer Ethnopsychoanalyse und Ethnopsychiatrie. Frankfurt am Main, Bern, New York: Peter Lang, 1986
  • Hans Peter Duerr (Hg.): Die wilde Seele. Zur Ethnopsychoanalyse von Georges Devereux. Frankfurt : Suhrkamp, 1987
  • Johannes Reichmayr: Einführung in die Ethnopsychoanalyse. Geschichte, Theorien und Methoden. Frankfurt am Main: Fischer, 2001, ISBN 3596106508 – Revised new edition: Giesssen:Psychosozial-Verlag, 2003, ISBN 3898061663
  • Ekkehard Schröder (Hg.): Georges Devereux zum 75. Geburtstag. Eine Festschrift, Braunschweig [etc.]: Vieweg, 1984

See also

External links



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