Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Lissa Weinstein

Committee Members

Steven Tuber

Diana Punales

Ionas Sapountzis

Lauren Young

Subject Categories

Clinical Psychology | Cognition and Perception | Comparative Psychology | Counseling Psychology | Multicultural Psychology | Social Psychology | Theory and Philosophy


racism; racialized violence; projection; projective identification; envy


This dissertation is concerned with the role of the psychic defenses projection and projective identification in the processes which lead to racialized violence in the United States. The dissertation posits that projection has been less considered as a primary driver of racialized violence than other psychic processes and should be better integrated into psychological research and literature on racialized violence. The thesis begins with a detailed examination of two instances of racialized violence, the first a macro example of nation vs. nation: the United States’ invasion of Iraq in 2003, before which the United States fantasized Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) only to find no such weapons existed in the country it attacked. The other instance is a micro/dyadic example of racialized violence, that being the night a man, George Zimmerman, killed a boy, Trayvon Martin, outside of Orlando, Florida in 2012. Both examples are examined for the ways in which the aggressors’ stated perceptions of their victims could well describe the aggressors themselves, thus leading us to consider the ways in which aspects of the aggressors’ selves were split off, projected onto the victims who were then attacked as a means by which to rid the aggressors of unwanted psychic material. Chapter two examines social psychological literature on racialized violence, explicating definitions of racialized violence and producing a new working definition, as well as examining some of the better known psychological concepts (e.g. in group/out group) that have been developed to explain racialized violence. Chapter three traces the origins of projection and projective identification, working chronologically, looking closely at the work of Freud and Klein in the development of the concept. Chapter four examines the role of envy, a concept closely tied to Klein, as an accelerant of racialized violence, as well as literature on group processes, especially the writings of Bion and Moss. Group processes are explored because all racialized violence involves group process; even when there is only one perpetrator and one victim, each is representing their respective groups. Chapter five uses an example of case material to further examine how projection occurs, even in the analytic dyad, and to consider how we might better contain the autonomic tendency to project.