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Hollander, N.C. (2008). Living Danger: On Not Knowing What We Know. Psychoanal. Dial., 18(5):690-709.

(2008). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 18(5):690-709

Living Danger: On Not Knowing What We Know

Nancy Caro Hollander, Ph.D.

This paper contextualizes the struggle around the American Psychological Association's ethical standards regarding psychologists' participation in abusive interrogations of detainees by examining the psychological and political meanings of living in a society in which the state assumes the right to torture. To highlight the implications of authoritarian trends in America's post-9/11 political culture, I offer an interdisciplinary psychoanalytic analysis of the extreme social situation of the Argentine Dirty War, in which torture was used by the military government not as a tactic to make detainees talk but as a strategy to silence an entire population. I explore the defense mechanism of disavowal and its use by both perpetrators and victims in ways that contributed to sustaining authoritarian rule in Argentina. I suggest that it is within the legitimate arena of psychoanalysis to consider the psychological meanings of patients' experience in the larger social order. I argue for a psychoanalytic project that does not disavow the centrality of social reality in the formation of subjectivity and for a clinical model that provides a potential space in which the subject can develop a critical psyche able to co-construct a more democratic political as well as personal life.

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