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Mills, J. (2002). Deracination: Historicity, Hiroshima, and the Tragic Imperative. Walter A. Davis, Ph.D. Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2001. 300 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 71(4):843-846.

(2002). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 71(4):843-846

Deracination: Historicity, Hiroshima, and the Tragic Imperative. Walter A. Davis, Ph.D. Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2001. 300 pp.

Review by:
Jon Mills

In his recent book, Deracination: Historicity, Hiroshima, and the Tragic Imperative, Walter A. Davis delivers a persuasive yet melancholic account of human nature that questions the very veracity of history through a psychoanalytic hermeneutics of Hiroshima. Without equivocation, this is a brilliant exploration into the throes of human horror that defines collective Western mentality, showing supple forays into psychic reality through interdisciplinary breadth among fields as diverse as history, psychoanalysis, philosophy, aesthetics, and literature. Developing a new theory of the tragic, and consequently of the dynamics of the psyche, Davis offers an existential analysis of unconscious defense as a failure to internalize our true humanity and face the responsibility incumbent in our historicity.

This book is broadly focused on history, psychology, and aesthetic ontology, but an important undercurrent is the unconscious primacy of negativity that saturates conscious experience in relation to the atomic nuclear invasion of Japan—although this work could be easily interpreted as both a political and ethical treatise on such events. Davis pulls no punches: he cogently argues how United States justification of the bombing of the Japanese was pathologically driven. His critique is austere and provocative: it challenges the reader to confront the “system of guarantees” that structures the collective psyche and protects it from facing its illusory justification. In addition to his exposure of the dismal portrait of human aggression motivated by Thanatos as a narrative force in history, the subject matter itself is further disturbing, thus adding to the evocation of defense that is likely to color one's reading of the text—a text that may be interpreted by some as radically nihilistic, bleak, and paranoiac. As a result, the reader is likely to feel internal resistance, if not upheaval, provoked by this assault on the psychic integrity that typically accompanies a belief in the legitimacy surrounding this period in history.

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