Anthropology and Psychoanalysis: An Encounter through Culture

By Suzette Heald; Ariane Deluz | Go to book overview
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5

Trauma and ego-syntonic response

The Holocaust and ‘The Newfoundland Young Yids’, 1985

Nigel Rapport

This article follows the reaction by a number of Jewish friends to intimations made in Canada in the mid-1980s—and one Newfoundland newspaper article in particular—that the genocide of Jews in the Second World War (the Holocaust) was a hoax and part of an ongoing Jewish ‘conspiracy’. It examines the social process whereby the friends organise themselves into a group so as to offer a joint response. This I do by focusing in detail on the interaction between them one evening shortly after the newspaper article appears. I offer the case-study as a comment on Devereux’s notion of collective activities representing ‘Ego-syntonic outlets’.


EGO-SYNTONISM

[B]oth organised and spontaneous social movements and processes are possible not because all individuals participating in them are identically (and sociologistically) motivated, but because a variety of authentically subjective motives may seek and find an Ego-syntonic outlet in the same type of collective activity. (Devereux 1978:126)

Devereux distinguished between social or sociologistic mandates and motives, on the one hand, and subjective or psychological ones, on the other. These represented two domains, distinct ‘universes of discourse’, he argued, and it was absurd to attempt to reduce one to the other (1978:133). Rather, in academic modelling, complementarity had to be recognised between them: they should be seen to ‘fit together’, ‘through interplay and mutual reinforcement’ (1978:119); to be linked by ‘something resembling feedback mechanisms’ (1978:129). One significant feedback mechanism, for example, was the phenomenon of ego-syntonism, as outlined in the above quotation (also see Hook, 1979:5): a process whereby a number of discrete consciousnesses became harmonically attuned to one another.

Methodologically, Devereux felt, the recognition of ego-syntonism was an advance in the explanation of the processes of sociation, of interaction

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