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Frankel, J. (2019). Working-Through Collective Wounds: Trauma, Denial, Recognition in the Brazilian Uprising by Raluca Soreanu, Palgrave MacMillan, London, 2018, 247pp. Am. J. Psychoanal., 79(1):117-126.

(2019). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 79(1):117-126

Working-Through Collective Wounds: Trauma, Denial, Recognition in the Brazilian Uprising by Raluca Soreanu, Palgrave MacMillan, London, 2018, 247pp

Review by:
Jay Frankel, Ph.D.

In 2013, in Brazil, where she was then living and working, Raluca Soreanu had the opportunity to witness, and become part of, an extraordinary mass uprising. In her deeply informed, thoughtful, and persuasive book, Soreanu brings her education and experience as a psychoanalyst, her considerable knowledge of social theory, and a capacious and creative intellect to her investigation of this uprising.

More specifically, Soreanu examines the uprising as an attempt to work through earlier societal traumas, dating back to the violence that took place under military rule. As such, she brings a psychoanalytic theory of trauma to bear on her subject matter—specifically, the trauma theory of Sándor Ferenczi, a pioneer from the early days of psychoanalysis.

Ferenczi's penetrating insights remain even today on the cutting edge of understanding trauma. Soreanu both elucidates Ferenczi's theory with unusual depth and clarity, and brings her observations and insights about the uprising back to psychoanalysis, shining fresh light on Ferenczi's theory.

As will become clear shortly, Ferenczi's work on trauma and its working through is uniquely suited to a “social analytics” (p. 6)—what Soreanu calls the “second movement” (p. 6) in the rediscovery and appreciation of Ferenczi's work (the first is its clinical applications). Even in light of others’ applications of Ferenczi's trauma theory to group psychology and politics, Soreanu moves into new terrain, looking at as-yet unexplored implications of Ferenczi's ideas. This book will stand as an indispensable resource on Ferenczi's trauma theory, and essential reading for understanding the relationship between individual and group psychology.

While this book is theoretically dense, engaging theoretical discussions in fields both psychoanalytic and social along its journey, it is ultimately a deep and often moving consideration of the capacity for shared human connection that can emerge from facing one's traumas and overcoming the alienation, from others and from oneself, that has resulted from them.

The book is divided into three sections: Trauma and the Symbol, Trauma and Denial, and Trauma and Recognition. My discussion will not strictly follow her organization. The breadth of ideas that Soreanu brings to her investigation, and the rich texture of her discussions, prevents me from commenting on all her important contributions.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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