Richard Bates
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Radio star
Psychoanalysis in the public sphere, 1968–88
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This chapter looks at Dolto as a national broadcaster and popular child-rearing expert. It situates Dolto in the context of the history of French radio, with particular reference to other broadcasters – Clara Candiani, Madame Soleil and especially Ménie Grégoire – who used radio to create a sense of intimacy and community around discussions of personal-yet-public issues. It analyses in some detail Dolto’s radio shows S.O.S. Psychanalyste! (1968–69) and Lorsque l’enfant paraît (‘When the baby comes’ or ‘When the child appears’, 1976–78), looking at what kinds of people listened and took part, what issues were raised and how Dolto responded to them. It demonstrates that Dolto used these shows to disseminate psychoanalytic thinking to ordinary parents and to promote her vision of the family based on paternal authority and heteronormative gender divisions.

The chapter also examines Dolto’s attitudes towards homosexuality and education. It describes an episode in which Dolto attacked a children’s publisher for disseminating ‘dangerous’ material that in her view undermined gender divisions. It also explores her participation in creating a private school, La Neuville, which embodied her utopian vision and her opposition to the republican educational model.

The last section analyses the Maison Verte children’s centres, whose creation and ethos were inspired by Dolto. It argues that these centres succeeded to an unparalleled degree in embedding psychoanalytic thinking within state-sponsored childcare provision, with impacts that continue to this day.

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