Accueil > À propos de Gisela Pankow > Biography


samedi 18 janvier 2020

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Gisela Pankow was born in Düsseldorf (Germany) in February 1914. She spent her childhood and adolescence in Berlin and moved to Paris in 1951. She adopted France and acquired French nationality in 1966.

She came from a family of teachers and professors, of liberal and democratic tradition (both her parents were involved in the League of Human Rights). She finished, high school, rather brilliantly, in 1933 and headed towards Medical School.

However, the rise of Nazism went against her vocation : her father, a notorious opponent of the Nazi Regime was demoted from his position as professor, at the rise of Hitler.

The life of the family grew difficult. Finding medical studies too long and confined to the “politically correct” mind-set of the time, Gisela directed her career towards Mathematics and Physics, (as well as Geography and Philosophy), known as politically more “neutral” sciences.
She graduated from Berlin University and started to earn her living, although she was not allowed to teach because of the political opinions and involvement of her family, which Gisela shared. Only in 1939, was she able to teach, for a year, in a Silesian private institution. The war years were a period of painful experiences for the Pankow family.

In 1943, her father who was hospitalized for a simple infection died in suspect conditions… as did many other opponents of Hitler’s regime. Gisela returned to Berlin and worked as a researcher in statistics for industry.

At the end of 1943, she settled in Tubingen as Assistant Professor at the Physics Institute. At the same time, she managed to enrol at Medical School…
Her steadfast attitude towards her vocation was threatened yet again in 1945, at the end of the second World War, by the massive demobilization of combatants and prisoners, both of whom had priority at enrolling. The “cut-off rate” at the end of the first year of Medical School also presented a good excuse to eliminate this liberal-minded student.
Theodore Heuss, Regional Minister for Cultural Affairs, under the authority of the occupational forces, had been close friends with Gisela’s father as well as an opponent of the Nazi Regime. His direct intervention finally got the better of bureaucracy and political animosity. Gisela pursued her studies…
In 1946, she began work in morpho-endocrinological research at the Tubingen University NeuroPsychiatric Hospital under Ernst Kretschmer, recently appointed Professor.
By 1949, she had become E. Kretschmer’s valued assistant, together they published articles and she was generously quoted in his main publication “Körperbau und Charakter”. His works and thinking were of much influence on Gisela’s later theoretical development. He opposed the “unique causality” in psychosis, being one of the pioneers of its multi-factorial origin. He stressed the importance of “field work”. His constitutional typology can be perceived in Gisela Pankow’s clinical thinking. However, his typology is not restrained to the somatic level, but is rather seen as a marker of living experiences and historicity. She adhered to Kretschmer’s differentiation between Kern-Psychosis and Rand-Psychosis (nuclear- and marginal-psychosis), the basis on which she developed her Two-Image-Body-Function Theory.
On the one hand, Gisela was immersed in the world of German psychiatry, heavily influenced since the end of the First War by Karl Jaspers’ works and Edmond Husserl’s phenomenology, and Emile Kraepelin’s statistical and causal nosology being outdated, Ludwig Biswanger and the Daseinanalyse had come to be recognized and appreciated. On the other hand, in 1934 Kurt Goldstein published Der Aufbau des Organismus (La structure de l’organisme, translated into French by Gallimard, in 1951), a fundamental work on which Gisela based her 1959 article, “Dynamic Structurization and Goldstein’s concept of the organism”, in the American Journal of Psychoanalysis, Vol. 19 (2) : 157-60.

While still at Tubingen, Gisela met Catholic philosophers such as Romano Guardini (internationally known theological leader) who had just resumed his lectures, interrupted under the Nazi Regime, as well as Gustav Siewerth, a pupil of Heidegger and Husserl. Symbolism and its links to language, body and space were central to their work. These encounters may have brought about Gisela Pankow’s conversion to Catholicism in the 1950s. She kept up the Philosophical Phenomenological approaches throughout her life and was a member of various associations, such as, in France, the “Association of Friends of Gabriel Marcel” of which she became a member, and she was a close friend of Father Gaston Fessard, and of Professor Henri Maldiney.
Her psychoanalytical training began also at Tubingen : firstly with Luise Weizsäcker, a member of the Deutsches Institut für Psychotherapeutische Forschung und Psychotherapie, and later, no doubt due to problems of a political nature, with the sister-in-law of Luise Weizäcker, Khäte Weisäcker-Hoss, who had a more liberal approach. She started, with the latter, her first supervised analysis. Her career continued in Paris under other supervisors : Daniel Lagache, Françoise Dolto and Jacques Lacan, at the French Psychoanalytical Society. It was, however, in Bern, Switzerland that she pursued her personal analysis with Ernest Blum, who also supervised and helped to set up Gisela’s clinical work. He was a direct disciple of Freud at the Swiss Psychoanalytical Society, and had trained most of its members. He was a learned humanist who specialised in Husserl’s Existential Philosophy.

Natural sciences, medicine, psychiatry, philosophy and psychoanalysis formed the basis for the development of Gisela Pankow’s work. We will see how her move to France and the development of her career there came about.
Her family was Francophile, so French was not such an “exotic” language for her.
In fact, it was the result of the encounter with Professor Martiny at the first Scientific Congress authorised in the French occupied zone, at Tubingen in 1950. Mainly, he invited her to present at Royaumont (International Week on Differential Anthropology) her work on the Constitution Biology, and later on in Paris, at the first World Psychiatry Congress.
However, the end of World War II was not so far back in time as to allow a young German to settle down and work in France. Yet again, Theodor Heuss intervened. He had just been made first President of the new RFA and was a good friend of the Pankows. The High-Commissioner André-François Poncet also supported her request.
She arrived in Paris in 1951, with a scholarship to pursue her research on endocrino-morphology, in the department headed by Professor Jacques Decourt, at the Pitié Hospital, and as a foreign assistant to the Faculty of Medicine. She worked there until 1957.

In 1953, she presented her doctoral dissertation at the University of Paris : “The metric relations between the base of the skull and the upper part of the face (front)”. However, J. Decourt, had heard about Gisela’s training in psychoanalysis and in his department of endocrinology he entrusted to her mainly patients with psychological or mental health problems. The results were encouraging. In 1953, he presented Gisela to the psychoanalytical milieu at the French Psychoanalytical Society (SFP). The dice were thrown…
In 1955, she took part in the International Psychotherapy Congress in Zurich, and in 1956 she published her first book : “Dynamic Structuring in Schizophrenia : A contribution to an analytical psychotherapy of a psychotic experience of the world”. Juliette Favez-Boutonier wrote the foreword to this work (two cases from this book composed the six-case-studies, under the same title, of the German version published in 1957). She was in charge of a seminar at the SPF on psychotherapy and psychosis. She had been corresponding with John Rosen for over two years : the “direct analysis” that had inspired the works of Bürgholzli with Eugen Bleuler fired her curiosity. She studied in depth the “Renée” case of M. Sechehaye, from which she drew certain concepts while also making some pertinent criticisms.
However, at the SFP and in the Parisian Psychoanalytical milieu, her ideas (as well as her strong personality) were soon seen as disturbing : separation was inevitable. Gisela withdrew from the SPF in 1959.
In Paris, her only teaching was in her private seminar and under the hospital teaching and research framework at Saint-Antoine, in the department of Professor Alby (1957-71), and in that of Professor Bourgignon (1971-81) and at Sainte-Anne (Henri-Rousselle) in the department of Professor Dr. Jean Ayme (1981-1992). She developed a solid working relationship with Jean Oury, with whom she worked closely over many years. She continued working through her theoretical development, outside of all psychoanalytical institutional frameworks, affiliated only to the International Psychoanalytical Association (IPA), since she was registered in the DPV (Deutsche Psychoanalytische Vereinigung).

Her English being as fluent as her French, she kept up with Anglo-American publications ahead of their translation into French. Gisela travelled around : in 1956 she gave some lectures in Melbourne, Australia, she went to the USA where she joined Dr Martin Grotjahn, invited by the SPF in 1954 and who worked at Baltimore as a research assistant. She was invited by Frieda Fromm-Reichmann, who encouraged her work warmly. Next she went to Philadelphia, with a strong recommendation letter to John Rosen from Jacques Lacan. She gave a three-month seminar at Temple University.
During the Annual Congress of American Psychoanalysts she met Gregory Bateson. She took part in several congresses in Europe, in Mexico, in Israel (invited by Ruben Gilead) and even in the USSR, where she took an interest in Alexander Luria’s work. Gisela was loyal to her interests in the scientific and the philosophical fields, nourishing her theoretical thinking through her psychoanalytical practice itself.
She returned to Germany on a regular basis, mainly to Bonn, where she ran a seminar for some ten years (1960-1970).

Gisela was a passionate reader and regularly would suggest to her students literary masterpieces to be read (or even films to be seen). She would read preferably in the author’s language, as her private library reveals to us.
Very quickly, she started publishing articles on literary analysis (or on films), mostly in the journal Esprit, through her particular focus : through body-image, space and time.
However, this analysis cannot be considered as an “applied psychoanalytical theory” ; it is rather the interpretation of what a text may convey, when considered clinically, on the nature of how things work.

(M.L.Lacas’ text, assembled and corrected from the “biography notes” published at the Campagne-Première Editors in “On the risks of the “we say” and other thoughts : Analytical approach on the speech of the other” Paris 2006)