RÓHEIM, GÉZA (1891–1953), U.S. psychoanalyst and anthropologist. Born in Budapest, he was for a time affiliated with the ethnological department of the Hungarian National Museum. In Berlin, he worked under F. von *Luschan and studied the theories of *Freud. In 1915, he underwent his first psychoanalysis at the hands of Sándor *Ferenczi and became the first ethnologist employing and advocating a psychoanalytic interpretation of culture, and during the next three years wrote a series of papers on his theories. About this time, he was appointed professor of anthropology at the University of Budapest. His treatise, Nach dem Tode des Urvaters (Imago (1923), 83–121), adjusted the Freudian theory in the light of anthropological data. In 1925 and 1926, he wrote two books on the psychoanalytic study of Australian totemism.

With Freud's encouragement and assistance, from 1928 to 1931 Róheim did fieldwork in Central Australia, Normanby (Melanesia), on the Sipupu Island in Somaliland, and among the Yuma Indians in Arizona. On the basis of this research Róheim was enabled to produce a revision of psychoanalytic theory. Some of the products of this study appear in Animism, Magic, and the Divine King (1930) as well as various articles in the psychoanalytic journals of the early 1930s. His two books, Riddle of the Sphinx (1934) and The Origin and Function of Culture (1943), deal with folklore and the interpretation of myths. Between 1932 and 1938, he taught anthropology and psychoanalysis at the Budapest Institute of Psychoanalysis.

In 1938 he left for the United States and became affiliated with the Worcester State Hospital as an analyst. After 1940 he joined the New York Psychoanalytical Institute as a lecturer and engaged in private practice as a psychoanalyst.

In his studies of mythology and magic, he placed primary stress on sexuality but with some deviations from the Freudian doctrine. On the basis of both his fieldwork and his clinical experience, Róheim tended to reject Freud's theory of the primal family and the hypothesis of inherited racial memories as an explanation of totemism and other social data in religion and social structure. He moved toward an ontogenetic theory of culture explaining it on the basis of prolonged dependence of the human infant and child on the mother which results in emotional and social ties.

Róheim also developed a dream theory interpreting various phenomena of anxiety, ambivalence, and aggression as part of the human experience of mother separation. In 1949 he wrote "Technique of Dream Analysis and Field Work in Anthropology" and in 1950 Psychoanalysis and Anthropology. In Magic and Schizophrenia (1955), Roheim set out his belief that both individuals and societies evolve from a stage of magical symbolic thinking that he related to schizophrenia.


G.B. Wilbur and W. Muensterberger (eds.), Psychoanalysis and Culture; Essays in Honor of Géza Róheim (1951), incl. bibl.; American Anthropologist, 55 (1953), 420; W. La Barre, in: F. Alexander et al. (eds.), Psychoanalytic Pioneers (1966), 272–81, incl. bibl; W. Muensterberger and B. Domhoff, in: IESS, 13 (1968), 543–6, incl. bibl.

[Ephraim Fischoff]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.