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Rudnytsky, P.L. (2005). Preface. Am. Imago, 62(4):389-393.

(2005). American Imago, 62(4):389-393


Peter L. Rudnytsky

Psychoanalysis, in its essence, is a science of the individual. Much excellent work, to be sure, has been done both on mass psychology and on group analysis, but even when the focus is on larger entities, the psychoanalytic scholar or clinician will never lose sight of the uniqueness of each human being who makes up that collectivity and in whom the meaning of whatever is experienced ultimately resides.

Precisely by virtue of its probing of the psychic depths, however, psychoanalysis renders its practitioners acutely aware of the extent to which all of us are shaped by larger social forces, and that our personal inkblots are but specks on an infinitely vaster canvas. And it is to what Dante, following St. Augustine, called in the Paradiso “the threshing floor that makes us so fierce” (l'aiuola che ci fa tanto feroci)—that is, to the scars of history—that this issue of American Imago is devoted.

We begin with a paper by three colleagues from Croatia, Slavica Jurcevic, Ivan Urlic, and Mirela Vlastelica, who report their research on a truly horrifying topic—mothers whose sons had been killed in action during the Balkan War of the 1990s but whose “mortal remains have decomposed beyond visual recognition” and whose identities could be determined years later only through DNA analysis of the exhumed skeletal fragments. On a theoretical plane, the authors take up “the psychodynamics of the mourning process” under such traumatic circumstances—building, in part, on Vamik Volkan's concept of “linking objects”—but the heart of their paper lies in the transcripts of the testimonies of six of the twenty-six bereaved mothers interviewed by Jurcevic whose sons had been identified in this gruesome fashion. There could scarcely be a more poignant example of how social identities collide with individual psyches than the broken narratives of these ordinary Croatian mothers, whose resort to denial and dissociation is a concrete manifestation of their historical scars.

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