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Author Delves into Deep Roots of Hatred


To fully understand the power that hatred wields over us, we need to look into our political unconscious.

Only then will issues like the Israeli/Palestinian conflict be resolved, said Niza Yanay, Ph.D., professor of sociology and anthropology at Israel’s Ben Gurion University.

“To understand hatred from within its workings, one must search for the ways which the concept is manipulated and used in language by regular citizens who are their own subjects and at the same time subjected through interpellation to state ideologies and social and cultural discourses,” said Yanay on Feb. 19 at a Fordham University Press event.

Niza Yanay Photo by Michael Dames

“The politics of emotions, particularly unrecognized emotions, more than but not excluding territorial, economic, religious and cultural disputes are, for me the nodal point of intractable conflicts and the stumbling block for change and peace.”

Yanay’s appearance at the Lincoln Center campus corresponded with a discussion of her book, The Ideology of Hatred: The Psychic Power of Discourse (Fordham University Press, 2012).

Yanay said that hatred, which has become a more prominent part of public discourse since 9/11, is closely linked to unrequited love from someone in close physical proximity with another.

Key to her theory is French psychoanalyst and psychiatrist Jacques Lacan’s interpretation of the “other” as someone who we all desire to be loved by not simply, but unconditionally and blindly.

When that love is unreturned, Yanay said, there is no greater obsessive hatred than that hatred toward the outsider, who is experienced as an intimate insider. That hatred, in turn, is channeled into a desire for control.

“Can we not say that the wish [is]to control the desire of the other, be it the Tutsi, Palestinians, Croats, Muslims, their loyalty, freedom, and their wants or mark, for example, the Palestinians as the ‘extimates’ of the Jewish Israelis?” she said.

“The Palestinians are those who are among us, yet not us; internal yet external. Those whom we are dependent on for recognition [while]simultaneously we cannot bear that thought and must deny it. The Palestinians are those from whom we—Israeli Jews—demand loyalty so that we can feel loved and moral, yet we can never accept their loyalty and therefore must build apparatuses of control and discourses of exclusion in order to keep them at bay.”

Respondent Judith Butler, Ph.D., the Maxine Elliot Professor in the Departments of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature and co-director of the Program of Critical Theory at the University of California, Berkeley, said Yanay’s work captured the essence of the “intimate enemy.”

In particular, she said it showed a deft combination of psychoanalysis and political theory.

“There is also in this book an idea of the unconscious as a matrix of intimate enmity, which suggests that we actually are not able to understand political conflict without some recourse to a language of the unconscious or the operations of the unconscious,” she said.

Butler said such an idea makes the case for a place for “socially minded psychoanalysis in conflict studies.”
“I think that’s a major contribution,” she said.

Butler questioned Yanay as to what she meant in her book passage, “hatred is a defense that suspends the writing and narration of the history of trauma.” Yanay responded with an anecdote: She once asked her father if he hated Germans, who he fled from when he relocated to the state of Israel.

“He answered ‘No, I don’t hate them now, and I never hated them.’ And I think Primo Levi says something similar,” she said.

“[Levi] said no, that he refuses to hate the Germans, because that would mean that he remains attached to the killers. Only by refusing to hate, can he relate and can he think with pleasure about his family.”

“When people hate, they remain so connected to the perpetrators that they cannot get in touch with the trauma. They cannot remember the history and the events that were there.”

Judith Butler and Niza Yanay Photo by Michael Dames


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