From Guilt to Shame: Auschwitz and After

From Guilt to Shame: Auschwitz and After

From Guilt to Shame: Auschwitz and After

From Guilt to Shame: Auschwitz and After

Synopsis

Why has shame recently displaced guilt as a dominant emotional reference in the West? After the Holocaust, survivors often reported feeling guilty for living when so many others had died, and in the 1960s psychoanalysts and psychiatrists in the United States helped make survivor guilt a defining feature of the "survivor syndrome." Yet the idea of survivor guilt has always caused trouble, largely because it appears to imply that, by unconsciously identifying with the perpetrator, victims psychically collude with power. InFrom Guilt to Shame, Ruth Leys has written the first genealogical-critical study of the vicissitudes of the concept of survivor guilt and the momentous but largely unrecognized significance of guilt's replacement by shame. Ultimately, Leys challenges the theoretical and empirical validity of the shame theory proposed by figures such as Silvan Tomkins, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, and Giorgio Agamben, demonstrating that while the notion of survivor guilt has depended on an intentionalist framework, shame theorists share a problematic commitment to interpreting the emotions, including shame, in antiintentionalist and materialist terms.

Excerpt

What is the logic of torture? in an article on prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, Mark Danner has shown that the methods used to soften up and interrogate detainees by American military personnel can be traced back to techniques developed by the cia in the 1960s. the best known manual of such procedures, the CIAs Counterintelligence Interrogation of Resistance Sources, produced in 1963 at the height of the Cold War, states that the purpose of all coercive techniques of interrogation is “to induce regression.” the result of external pressures of sufficient intensity is the loss of those defenses “most recently acquired by civilized man … Relatively small degrees of homeostatic derangement, fatigue, pain, sleep loss, or anxiety may impair these functions.” the programmatic manipulation and control of the environment, including the use of blindfolds or hooding, sleep and food deprivation, exposure to intense heat and cold, sensory deprivation, and similar methods, are meant to disorient the prisoner and break down resistance. “Once this disruption is achieved,” a later version of the manual observes, the subject's resistance is “seriously impaired.” He experiences a “kind of psychological shock” as a result of which he is far more open to suggestion and far likelier to comply with what is asked of him than before. Frequently the subject will experience a “feeling of guilt.” If the interrogator

Mark Danner, “The Logic of Torture,” New York Review of Books, June 24, 2004, 71; hereafter abbre
viated as “LT.” Danner cites from the kubark Counterintelligence Interrogation of Resistant Sources, July
1963, archived at “Prisoner Abuse: Patterns from the Past,” National Security Archive Electronic Briefing
Book No. 122, 83. http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSA-EBB122. kubark is a cia code name.

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