閱讀書籍： Dominick LaCapra, History and Memory After Auschwitz
Dominick LaCapra, History and Memory After Auschwitz,
Cornell UP, 1998
I. Psycho-analytical and other special terms
acting out -- the inability to come to terms with a (traumatic) event, resulting in compulsive repetition or reliving of the past experience (at the extreme, seen in hallucination, flashback, and breakdown). See also return of the repressed.
banality of evil -- Hannah Arendt's analysis of the mentality of Nazi bureaucrats, who did not seem themselves in terms of the sublime but whose behavior mimicked ordinary bureaucratic functionalism (equivalent to the tax collector). This points to the role of bureaucratic rationality (as a product of modernity) in the totalism of the Nazi regime (but by itself neglects other factors).
denial, resistance -- (see repression).
limit event -- a radically transgressive act against social life, e.g. crimes against humanity; not merely extreme but short of transgression.
memory -- primary memory is that of a person who has lived through events and remembers them in a certain manner (tending to involve lapses along with great power [and moral authority]). Secondary memory results from critical work on primary memory, testing and contextualizing. ... Secondary memory transmits primary memory in the form of history. (No memory is purely primary, but is always affected by elements not deriving from the experience itself; it is processed and mediated through forms, archetypes, etc.--there is no fully immediate access to the experience itself even for the original witness.)
mourning -- a process of post-traumatic reengagement with life, resulting in beginning again. Mourning involves memory in a process (often ritualistic) that separates the past from the present--thus has one purpose in preparing for future, enabling victim agency (as opposed to acting-out or melancholia; see working-through).
(self-) repression -- or blocking, as in not letting oneself imagine (the pleasure of) murder. Also, more generally, the internalization of social norms (morality). Memories denied or repressed may become “encrypted” and so get passed on in “phantom” forms (the return of the repressed).
return of the repressed -- the coming forth of socially repressed, immoral behaviors. Since individuals (and societies) retain what is repressed in some form, it can always reemerge under the right circumstances, possibly reemerging in new or displaced forms. This is often misread as barbarous behavior in modern (and so supposedly civilized, advanced) societies.
sublime -- a sense of the super-ordinary or transcendent (elation, ecstasy, delirium); in Kant, absolutely great, involving a sense of hidden divinity. The negative sublime (a negative dimension is always harbored in the sublime) refers to super-ordinary horror and transgression. Silence is typically seen as the only appropriate response to the sublime as a kind of secular-sacred. The sublime involves: a) a rupture or blockage (e.g., of understanding); b) a flooding of the system (e.g., by anxiety or terror); and c) elation.
subject-position -- [simply, one's own perspective, angle, or position, but emphasizing mediation between essentialized identity and individualistic subjectivity], the self-conscious positioning of the self (as observer, commentator, and finally actor or agent in some sense) vis-a-vis events. The usual position as observer (= innocent bystander) is questionable in the case of limit-events, though unearned alliance with victims and antipathy for perpetrators is also questionable. Rather, one's position should alternate sympathies, appreciate the gray zone, identify with no single participant-position, and try to overcome the entire grid of perpetrator-collaborator-victim-bystander-resister. [But should one empathize with the perpetrators, even at great moral and psychological risk? On what grounds does one condemn perpetrators except through sympathy with the victims? How can an ethical stance be maintained otherwise? If transference is avoided, what are the dangers of transcendence/mastery?] Subject-positions (plural) can avoid transcendental mastery and emphasize objectivity through counteracting transference and projection and trying to self-critically examine one's own implication in the problems one investigates.
transference -- an identification with another, becoming emotionally implicated in a witness, and acting-out an affective response. Transference is inevitable as long as the issue is not dead, providing an emotional and evaluative response; the observer becomes affectively implicated and tends to repeat the processes active in the object of investigation. Short of full transference, one may undergo muted trauma (indeed, the alternative is harmonizing narratives that deny the real trauma) but should not remain acting-out (i.e., uncritical). For LaCapra, transference implies acting-out: compulsive repetition of the past as if it were fully present and is at best, dangerously non-critical.
transgressive -- breaking taboos, committing great crimes.
trauma -- [from medicine: a major shock to the whole system; a deep, difficult-to-repair wound]. The traumatic event breaks continuity, shatters identity, and so brings about a lapse or rupture in memory. Traumatic events are repressed, registering or acknowledged only later. Trauma attacks both memory and imagination. Trauma also disables victims at the time of occurrence, who simply cannot believe what is happening to them. Mostly, “trauma” refers to concrete historical experiences; “structural” or “existential trauma” refers to problems shared by all societies, whether seen as tragic or sublime, and should not be confused with historical traumas or used to rationalize or harmonize them.
witness -- to experience, and beyond that to offer testimony (hence based on memory). The secondary witness such as the historian should perhaps partially but always critically relive the experiences of the primary witness (see “memory”). In fact, there is no such thing as “witnessing” in the sense of unmediated, direct access to experience, just as there is no purely primary memory. Is silence a form of witnessing?
working-through (mourning) -- the process of coming to terms with past trauma through critical memory work, neither stuck in acting-out (compulsive repetition, though this may be part of the process of working-through) nor dedicated to achieving total mastery or forgetting (which may be impossible). Working through is thus not the achievement of closure but of “mourning”. It recognizes problems, counteracting tendencies to repress or deny them; it is prerequisite for a critical spirit.
How does “trauma” affect memory individually and collectively? Can memory after the Holocaust work anything like it did before? [in the West? in China?] Given a focus on memory & history, is the Holocaust a special case determined by trauma, or can we apply Holocaust study-derived insights across the board? Cf. recent Chinese historical traumas like the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. More basically, what aspects of past should be remembered [i.e., what aspects forgotten?]? How is/should be this process of remembering/forgetting configured? How does trauma block remembering or understanding? How/should we unblock? Can/should historians--and other scholars--distance themselves from traumatic events (which always involve great crimes? or join in public memory, concern selves with ethics, ground selves in memory? Is there a special role of art in cases of coming to terms with historical trauma? [The case of the Holocaust at least temporarily raised art as a problem in itself. Adorno: how write a poem after; also George Steiner: why did Nazis appreciate art? is there no moral function in Mozart?]
Part of the present great interest in memory: 1) stems from coming to terms with the Holocaust. [There was little academic work and virtually no popular discussions through the 1970s; then floods]. This makes sense since trauma (by definition) causes a lapse in memory: victims, even perpetrators, cannot bear to remember since trauma breaks the continuity of self-identity. Indeed, trauma disturbs even outsiders, clear to the self image of “Western civilization”. Trauma is repressed [and will in Freudian terms therefore return in some form]: it needs process of mourning. 2) also emerges in “memory sites” from historical parks and museums to monuments, etc. [more broadly, nationalism].
The repression of memory gives rise to “acting out”, i.e., compulsive repetition, re-traumatizing. Witnessing [based on memory] is a “privileged mode of access to the past”. [LaCapra takes a rather commonsensical approach to the problems of the relationship between history and memory:] This is a special problem since the historian is forced to become “secondary witness”, i.e., to experience transference [or identification with the victim. Thus emotionally implicated, the historian [and other secondary witnesses] need to respond. The problem thus becomes one of how work out one's own subject-position. [LaCapra implies that witnessing, perhaps both primary and secondary (i.e., giving testimony) is part of a mourning process that aims at reintegrating the victim as actor/agent who can then reengage in social practice. One special question for historians is to what extent these processes function in less- or non-traumatic past events.]
Some historians have responded to the outpouring of Holocaust (and nationalist forms) of memory as too much memory or the wrong kind. This can lead to sentimentality: a kind of pretense of the self as pure, as victim, and also has disturbing political implications in terms of group identification (based on the supposedly superior rights of the victim). But the real question is not one of too much memory but how to work through, to the extent possible, past trauma. Historians should avoid two fallacies.
1) Memory treated as opposite of history, which is generally based on a neopositivist view of history as fact & analysis vs. memory as uncritical & myth. Ironically, an oversensitivity to the tricks of (false) memories leads to over-valorizing history as purely enlightened, and rational, avoiding historical self-criticism (Arno Mayer), and thus finally leading to an ideological and even mythical approach to “history”. This also leads to the normalization of memory (trauma).
2) Memory conflated with history, which conversely ignores the problems and tricks of memory. This view mingles fact & fictions, emphasizes anecdotes or autobiography, and tends to romanticize the past. It is a mistake to attack history as destroying the intimacy and reality of memory (Pierre Nora, Patrick Hutton), because this too finally results in (ironically) a similar normalizing and neutralizing of trauma as there is no basis for critical attempts to work through one's own transferential relationship to the trauma/victim. Above all, memory cannot be treated as an unproblematic doorway to past reality/experience: it is always mediated and needs to be critically examined. The point is not to set the historian up as a judge but nor for the historian to become purely empathetic. Rather, critical distance [which is virtually impossible to avoid, anyway] should allow for a dialog “to form cogent judgments” [not just about truth claims but] what part of the past to use, rework, and keep alive.
Memory is thus neither the same nor the opposite of history. Memory both goes beyond and falls short of history (and vice versa), creating the possibility of “desirable interaction”. Memory is useful if is can be part of mourning (working through), which is to say it should be oriented toward the future. Even when memory is untrustworthy [indeed, because untrustworthy], memory is a crucial source: “even in its falsifications, repressions, displacements, and denials, memory may nonetheless be informative--not in terms of an accurate empirical representation of its object but in terms of that object's often anxiety-ridden reception and assimilation by both participants in events and those born later.: Also, “critically informed memory” plays a necessary role in deciding what should be preserved in living traditions [perhaps this point is especially relevant to post-colonial societies]. History, then, possesses two functions in regard to memory: 1) to adjudicate truth claims, 2) to transmit critically tested memory [then produced in museums, publications, school curricula, etc.].
‘Memory' takes two basic forms: primary (of the person who lived through the event, remembering with lapses of denial, repression, suppression & evasion but also a compelling immediacy), and secondary (resulting from critical work on primary memory: both by the original witness or analyst, observers, or ‘secondary witnesses' like the historian). The two forms of memory must meet on the grounds of secondary memory, which may finally replace, or at least supplement primary memory, finally internalized as what is remembered. The historian's role is to transmit secondary memory, and thus may transmit some of the trauma but not a full reliving or acting out. However, no memory is purely primary: memory is always affected by elements outside the original experience,. especially in the case of trauma, which creates gaps that must be filled (when they are) through the mediation of forms, types, archetypes, and stereotypes. Even the original witness has: “no fully immediate access to the experience itself.”
The problem of the sublime or negative sublime is related to the history-memory problem because the historian repeats elements of sublime (Saul Friedlander): a) rupture & b) excess, but the historian resists c) elation, deliberately (or not) blocking one's intuitive comprehension [of say, slaughtering, or maybe victimhood as well]. This produces an unease from the noncongruence between intellectual probing and this blocking. This unease can, however, be combined with the explicit “act of critical distancing”. However, the historian will experience transference as long as the “issue is not dead...provokes an emotional & evaluative response, and entails the meeting of history with memory.... When confronting live issues, one becomes affectively implicated and tends to repeat in oneself at some level the processes active in what one tries to understand.” Hence the trauma event requires scholar to undergo muted trauma. The secondary witness should neither deny trauma, turning it into a kitsch, harmonizing narrative, nor remain at level of acting out or appropriating others' traumas. For the future, “one of the purposes of studying history, notably the history of the limit-case, is to generate that anxiety in tolerable, nonparanoid doses so that one is in a better position to avoid or counteract deadly repetitions.”
IV. Case studies
In the “historians' debate” in Germany in 1986, both parties tended to ignore the problem of structural/existential trauma vs. historically specific trauma. Ernst Nolte in particular tended to conflate the two, deriving the Holocaust from structural trauma as well as--unconvincingly and curiously--Stalinism. This was tantamount to a refusal to mourn and create a positive German identity by normalizing the Shoah (and even to the point of blaming the victims), in a repetition of the avoidance, denial, and willed ignorance of contemporary observers. In a sense, Nolte was legitimating and giving voice to a strand in popular culture that emphasized “homeland” normality at the price of a “diminished faculty of memory”. In fact, secrets were merely “encrypted”, thus passed on as ‘phantoms” destabilizing & haunting the descendants. Habermas's reply (which prompted the “debate”) link collective responsibility and public memory. Professional historians sometimes reacted with an excessively narrow neo-positivist criticism of the entire debate, refusing to accept a role as public intellectuals.
Camus's The Fall (La chute, 1956) raises issues of narratorial reliability in an allegory of the Holocaust that might also refer (whether Camus was fully aware of this or not) to Algeria. [One of LaCapra's concerns here is to criticize Shoshana Felman's use of Camus to rehabilitate Paul de Man, but this has little to do with history and memory]. In The Fall, the narrator Clamence “seeks, not partners in a dialogic exchange in which all are equally at risk, but accomplices in a game whose telos is victimization, domination, and slavery.” Clamence is thus manipulative and implicating to reader (& Camus), displaying the “posttraumatic cynicism of the implicated bystander”--unsettled by events witnessed but not responded to, now refusing to let trauma register to work through it. Clamence thus combines the secular evils of nihilism and utopianism. Nonetheless, there is still some interplay between Camus and Clamence, as well as with the reader. The very notion of a “fall” displays a secularized Christianity [and may have less resonance outside the Western tradition]. Clamence less refuses to remember than he is stuck in acting out repetitions of evaded memories.
Lanzmann's “Shoah” resists normalization but conflates secondary (remembering witnesses) with primary witness of the original trauma. The film lacks any self-critical edge, and it even refuses to admit others' critical questions. Ambiguous genre categories here are evasive, since if the film is treated as documentary its avoidance of original footage (not to mention analysis) becomes problematic, but if it is treated as art, its aestheticized nonetheless claim facticity. In fact, it is self-contradictory simply because one cannot avoid historicization; description always rests on and includes theory, interpretation, & explanation. Here, survivors both play and are themselves. The main problem is not what the film leaves out (explicit analysis, other aspects of the Holocaust aside from victimization of Jews) but Lanzmann's refusal to mute his own trauma [or his insistence on trauma even if neither earned nor perhaps fully felt]. Lanzmann denied that he was dealing with memory but rather claimed: “The film is the abolition of all distance between the past and the present...” Better would be, in LaCapra's terms, “to keep some measure of balance between the emotion recurrently breaking through the ‘protective shield' and the numbness that protects this very shield.”
Spiegelman's Maus is a more self-critical effort to recover memory for the younger generation. The use of a popular form like the comic books raises questions of appropriateness but seems to work, avoiding Hollywood kitsch [but hardly reaching the mass audience of “Schindler's List”]. The survivor's autobiographical account is interwoven with post-Holocaust life, especially contemporary New York Jewish life. Identity is problematized as the father is seen as something of a victimizer himself (and certainly not self-aware), and so the oppressed group is not essentialized (the son-narrative-author is somewhat obsessive and not entirely likable). This is also seen in the hybridized genre the work represents. The use of animal characters (caricatures) raises the problem of essentialization and stereotyping, though it also enables Speigelman to picture the Holocaust without aestheticizing it, distances the readers, and is in fact nuanced in several ways (such as masks). This constitutes an Aesopian gesture that is still “somehow realistic”, triggering the imagination to “disturb the tranquillity of one's ‘memory palace,' that prevents it from becoming too ‘normal' or cozy...” Finally, “the very images in Maus may be seen not as imaginative representations of the unrepresentable but as condensed and at times disconcerting mnemonic devices that help to recall events one might prefer to forget...” Maus deals with memories not just of the Holocaust but of Artie's need for a “mnemonic redeemer” to fill in the gaps of his own life.
V. Ethical concerns
[In his conclusion, LaCapra curiously claims that this book is concerned with ethical issues. Actually, these were largely displaced by psycho-analytical themes. LaCapra also denies that his use of psycho-analytical categories avoided notions of pathology and normality, but this is simply not convincing. Lanzmann's ethical problems in pressuring witnesses to recount their experiences against their will is presented as only part of his larger acting-out pathology. The main area where psycho-analytical categories here met ethical issues is the problem of secondary witnesses identifying with victims (or to a degree with perpetrators on the grounds of the sublime).]
As LaCapra suggests, trauma presents special problems for both imagination and memory. Imagination is exhausted by trauma, which stems from events already beyond imagining: so imagination cannot represent them. Yet legitimate creation (avoiding “bland sensationalism”) is only difficult, not impossible. At the same time, “In this context critically tested memory may appear as the necessary staring point for all symbolic activity...the question of memory may come to the forefront of attention or even be exaggerated precisely because of the difficulty of remembering events that defy the imagination and are not fully encompassed by conventional methods of representation....” LaCapra suggests that memory and imagination must work together since the former is needed to provide substance lest the latter atrophy or become stuck in repetition. The point of critical memory is to provide a check, for otherwise “memory may even come to occupy the place of the imagination in posttraumatic contexts”. Here, indeed, memory is relevant to ethics because it is necessary to counter those who would deny, normalize, or ignore the Holocaust. Finally, LaCapra points out that memory is also needed for forgetting: “critically taking leave of less desirable aspects of the past.” This is not pure memory, but worked through: mourning and honoring what should be, and not what should not be.