Uffa Jensen

How the Couch Came to Calcutta - A Global History of Early Psychoanalysis

With numerous illustrations
(German title: Wie die Couch nach Kalkutta kam)
ca. 538 pages
Uffa Jensen
Foto: Uffa Jensen
© Jürgen Bauer

Uffa Jensen, born in 1969, teaches history at the Technical University of Berlin and is a researcher at their Center for Research on Antisemitism.

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The first comprehensive global history of psychoanalysis

Thanks to numerous case histories, it grants insights into psychoanalytic praxis.


At the end of the 19th century in Vienna, Sigmund Freud founded psychoanalysis. It developed into a global phenomenon in just a few decades. Concepts like »super-ego«, »narcissism« or »the Oedipus complex« have long been a part of our everyday speech. In order to understand this dynamic development, Uffa Jensen considers three cities which, in addition to Vienna, were of great importance for the development of the psychoanalytic movement: Berlin, London and Calcutta.

Jensen shows how teaching and treatment techniques were adapted to the background of existing therapy forms and local traditions, and the ways in which these developments in turn influenced Freud. By means of narrative »keyhole texts« Jensen looks directly into the consulting room, while also shedding light on the political and social aspects of global psychoanalysis. Conceived from the beginning as a kind of »technology of the self«, it paved the way for today’s culture of counsellors und coaching. This global history also demonstrates how the therapeutic handling of emotions was of central importance: Freud himself understood his therapy as »a cure through love«.

»We should be less surprised by the fact that psychoanalysis was of such interest in Calcutta and more by the fact that, almost 100 years later, this remains surprising.«


»Uffa Jensen has written an interesting, often surprising book that is an enjoyable read and that has the ability to familiarize a wide public with the global migration of psychoanalysis and its implementations – particularly with its impact in Asia, which has been researched for some time now.« Alexander Fischer, Deutschlandfunk

»Uffa Jensen’s book, which unites narrative talent and a distinctive sense for intellectual surprises, contributes to the stimulating mobilisation of gridlocked thoughts, it animates an old, closed-off story that, considered and presented on a global scale, is refreshed and invigorated and becomes the prime example of how travel accounts of ideas are told.« Eberhard Rathgeb, Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung

»In the introduction, Uffa Jensen describes psychoanalysis as a traveling culture. His readers travel along. To famous settings – and along curious detours.« Deutschlandfunk Kultur

»Carefully reconstructed, a great read.« ekz.bibliotheksservice

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