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Patalano, R. (2017). September 11th, an Attack at the Limits of Thought. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 98(5):1359-1384.

(2017). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 98(5):1359-1384

September 11th, an Attack at the Limits of Thought

Roberta Patalano

(Accepted for publication 6 August 2016)

The paper deals with imagination and its failures from a psychoanalytic perspective. We offer a definition of imagination failures and suggest how they can be interpreted as an opportunity to learn from experience. In order to show that the topic has a concrete and not only speculative significance we consider the public report on September 11 as a case study. The report was published by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States after a long investigation of the facts and circumstances relating to the September 11 attacks. The document has been the object of strong criticisms, as we argue in the paper. Both the document and some of the critiques that it received focus, however, on significant aspects of the debate about imagination, such us the fragility of imaginative thought, its dependence on unconscious desires and its plurality of outcomes: a plethora of imaginaries can in fact be developed at any time, from the same set of information about reality. We comment on these aspects and reinterpret them from a Bionian perspective. The concepts of ‘unthinkability’, ‘imagination failure’ and ‘depressive position’ are used to inform the necessity of dealing with an evolving and conflictual geopolitical scenario. Particular attention is paid to the proposal of ‘routinizing, even bureaucratizing, the exercise of imagination’ within the institutions that deal with National Defense. This possibility is discussed in depth in order to suggest how it may be concretely implemented. In conclusion, a strong case is made for the usefulness of psychoanalytic reflection in the arena of relationships among countries, with particular emphasis on the new terrorist challenges.

[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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