To heal and recreate ourselves : shame, the Holocaust, and nonviolence / by Liliane Kshensky Baxter.
This multidisciplinary inquiry integrates women's studies, Jewish studies, and peace studies, and the fields of human development, psychology and psychiatry, literature, theology, history, neuroscience, philosophy and sociology. It is shaped by the defining questions raised by the Holocaust and its aftermath, and sustained by the values and aspirations of the philosophy and practice of nonviolence. Its thesis is that shame is a significant moral emotion of our times, and that an understanding of shame attunes us, paradoxically, to both our morality and immorality. Feminist theory's critique of claims to objectivity and neutrality has challenged me to look for a new mode of presenting vital scholarly information. Toward that end—to ground theory in testimony, reflection in lived experience—I have turned to my own life as case study. Chapter One serves as an introduction to shame theory and to the basic categories and literature of this inquiry, placing an understanding of shame at the intersection of personal and collective memory. Chapter Two concerns the construction of self, and focuses on the mother-child relationship and the pioneering work of philosopher-psychologist Silvan S. Tomkins. Placing the intergenerational transmission of trauma in dialogue with autobiography, Chapter Three looks at the Holocaust and the influence of history on the private life of the family. Chapter Four proposes the metaphor of Beloved Community, brought to vivid life by the American civil rights movement, as a means to envision and make real the possibilities for nonviolent social change in this new century. The Conclusion suggests three observations emerging from this study: the centrality of infancy in the life of good and evil; the unacknowledged presence of public reenactments of private shaming; and the need, beyond all theories and ideologies, simply to tell our stories.
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