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Dark Traces of the Past

Dark Traces of the Past: Psychoanalysis and Historical Thinking

Jürgen Straub
Jörn Rüsen
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    Dark Traces of the Past
    Book Description:

    The relationship between historical studies and psychoanalysis remains an open debate that is full of tension, in both a positive and a negative sense. In particular, the following question has not been answered satisfactorily: what distinguishes a psychoanalytically oriented study of historical realities from a historical psychoanalysis? Skepticism and fear of collaboration dominate on both sides. Initiating a productive dialogue between historical studies and psychoanalysis seems to be plagued by ignorance and, at times, a sense of helplessness. Interdisciplinary collaborations are rare. Empirical research, formulation of theory, and the development of methods are essentially carried out within the conventional disciplinary boundaries. This volume undertakes to overcome these limitations by combining psychoanalytical and historical perspectives and thus exploring the underlying "unconscious" dimensions and by informing academic and nonacademic forms of historical memory. Moreover, it puts special emphasis on transgenerational forms of remembrance, on the notion of trauma as a key concept in this field, and on case studies that point the way to further research.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-399-2
    Subjects: History, Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface to the Series
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    Jörn Rüsen
  5. I Psychoanalysis, History, and Historical Studies: A Systematic Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)
    Jürgen Straub

    The relationship between historical studies and psychoanalysis remains a concern that is open and full of tensions, in both a positive and negative sense. Particularly the question, what would distinguish a psychoanalytically oriented study of historical realities and the consciousness involved with these realities—that is a historical psychoanalysis—upon which this present volume focuses, has not been satisfactorily answered. Scepticism and fear of contact dominate on both sides. Here and there ignorance prevails, and at times there is a definite sense of helplessness concerning how a productive dialogue could even be initiated between historical studies and psychoanalysis, given the...

  6. Part I. The Construction of Memory and Historical Consciousness

    • CHAPTER 1 Three Memory Anchors: Affect, Symbol, Trauma
      (pp. 19-32)
      Aleida Assmann

      In his novelDas Geisterfest, the Hungarian author György Konrad writes: “I animate the stories that have survived in the amber of time.”¹ To this description I would like to add the question, is there such a thing as an “amber of time”? Or to put it in less poetic words: are there such retentive milieus for our memories? If so, one can surmise only in very exceptional cases; for our memories, as neurologists continually remind us, are generally transient, plastic, and unreliable. In response to such fleetingness, various cultures throughout time have invented stabilizing devices, from physical or pictorial...

    • CHAPTER 2 Origin and Ritualization of Historical Awareness: A Group Analytic View and an Ethnohermeneutic Case Reconstruction
      (pp. 33-44)
      Hans Bosse

      The authenticity of psychoanalytic knowledge can be measured by the change in awareness of the person being analysed,¹ just as the verifiability of group analytical findings is measured by the changes in the group with whom the group analyst works. That is why psychoanalytic or group analytic theory formation has to be related to case studies in order not to be speculative. Due to the brevity of this chapter I cannot undertake any full, systematic ethnohermeneutic reconstruction in the way I would prefer; therefore, I will have to confine myself to proposals, to some case studies published,² and to my...

    • CHAPTER 3 Identity, Overvaluation, and Representing Forgetting
      (pp. 45-66)
      Hinderk M. Emrich

      The act of remembering does not necessarily relate to what has actually taken place; it has a peculiar, intrinsically metaphorical quality of “as if.” Remembering is a process of representing that does not merely involve calling up data as if playing back a tape recording or running a CD-ROM. Rather, representing something by remembering it creates an experiential context along the lines of “Things are just like they were back then.” Genuine remembering is a process of transporting oneself back, of retrieving a past emotional situation. We are what we are because of our past experience; our existence is always...

  7. Part II. Shoah:: The Chain of Generations

    • CHAPTER 4 Transgenerational Trauma, Identification, and Historical Consciousness
      (pp. 69-82)
      Werner Bohleber

      The Holocaust, as well as the fate of its survivors and their children, has made us realize that political and social catastrophes, the so-called man-made disasters, unsettle a society in such a persistent and lasting way that we are forced to concern ourselves over several generations with their traumatic effects, and with identifying those effects still detectable beneath the surface of our own time. Generally speaking, the generations cling together, and in so doing the heritage of the earlier one is taken up and reworked by the next. The concrete experiences of that first generation are what the next will...

    • CHAPTER 5 On the Myth of Objective Research after Auschwitz: Unconscious Entanglements with the National Socialist Past in the Investigation of Long-Term Psychosocial Consequences of the Shoah in the Federal Republic of Germany
      (pp. 83-100)
      Kurt Grünberg

      These words by Theodor W. Adorno from his book chapterMeditationen zur Metaphysik(Meditations on Metaphysics) provide an inkling of the personal and collective abysses that may open when, albeit many years after “the deed,” but in the very country of the murderers, one undertakes to examine the legacy of the National Socialist extermination of the Jews; that is, when one gets involved with theLebenswelt(lifeworld) of Jews—survivors as well as their sons and daughters born after the Shoah, and on to the world of the Nazi perpetrators, along with their supporters, observers, andtheirchildren. Roughly sixty-five...

    • CHAPTER 6 Understanding Transgenerational Transmission: The Burden of History in Families of Jewish Victims and their National Socialist Victimizers
      (pp. 101-136)
      Jürgen Straub

      It seems certain today that the term “present” encompasses far more than a merely present identity of the self. Assuming that present time equals pure presence, and stating thereby that it be nothing more than itself, means to underestimate—or neglect—Edmund Husserl’s² differentiation ofpresent (time)andnow.³ Psychological presence is more than some point in time (“now”), and it proves more than William James’⁴ present time of consciousness, which he analyzed inPrinciples of Psychology.

      As psychoanalysis has impressively demonstrated, a vivid presence cannot be conceived of without those inherent traces of the past. Such incidents are part...

  8. Part III. Case Studies in Psychoanalysis and Literary Critics

    • CHAPTER 7 On Social and Psychological Foundations of Anti-Semitism
      (pp. 139-158)
      Karola Brede

      Hitler’s Willing Executioners, authored by Daniel J. Goldhagen and published in 1996, was not least a vehement criticism of conventional research. The German edition was released in the same year that the original English edition came out in the United States. In his book, Goldhagen posits that during the period of National Socialism, the Germans had held an active anti-Semitic attitude featuring eliminatory characteristics toward the Jews. This thesis, which provoked fierce reactions from both the German public and within specialist circles, notably among historians, was eventually rejected as untenable. Essentially, Goldhagen’s mistake was held to have been classifying the...

    • CHAPTER 8 From Religious Fantasies of Omnipotence to Scientific Myths of Emancipation: Freud and the Dialectics of Psychohistory
      (pp. 159-185)
      José Brunner

      Undoubtedly, the relevance of a psychoanalytic dimension in historical understanding correlates with the importance that is attributed to anxiety and fantasy in history. In circumstances in which historical agents—both groups and individuals—conduct themselves in what seems to observers and commentators to be a rational manner, the contribution of anxiety and fantasy to their conduct is usually taken to be negligible. Only when rational explanations are no longer considered sufficient will affects such as anxiety or unconscious fantasies play a major role in an historical analysis.

      For instance, those concerned with historical processes of domination and submission question neither...

    • CHAPTER 9 Working toward a Discourse of Shame: A Psychoanalytical Perspective on Postwar German Literary Criticism
      (pp. 186-201)
      Irmgard Wagner

      Positionality has long been recognized as an important category in historical discourse. An author’s position is even more relevant to a psychoanalytical perspective on historical writing, and particularly so to the topic under investigation here. As a native German scholar living in the United States and working in the field of German language and literature (Germanistik), I am a priori placed in the dialectic ofeigen(own, innate) andfremd(foreign)—that which pertains to the self versus that which pertains to the other. It is precisely the dialectic of self and other that is constitutive for the discourse of...

  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 202-213)
  10. Notes on the Contributors
    (pp. 214-216)
  11. Index
    (pp. 217-226)