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A description of the transmission a story which is horrific

A Ghost Story of Hiroshima Atom bomb drawings by survivors Several winters back during fieldwork in Hiroshima, I felt drawn to the 'Atom bomb drawings by survivors' hereinafter, 'A-bomb drawings'. As many as 2, drawings were produced by survivors in and and subsequently donated to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.

The remainder are being stored in boxes in the basement of the Museum and I spent several months commuting to the basement of the Museum to record all of the drawings.

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I took a photo of each one with a digital camera, printed it, developed a database, and visited about sixty of the artists. Sometimes the content is so brutal and horrific that my chest seizes up. I was often overwhelmed by the extent of survivors' lasting pain and sorrow for having lost their loved ones and having outlived them. A-bomb drawings visually render memories of the scenes survivors witnessed immediately after the bombing and, precisely as visual images, they seem to have the power to etch themselves into viewers' memories, as if they experience the scene vicariously.

As I looked time and again at the 2,plus images, I began to feel the gaze turned back by the human figures in the drawings. Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. Some depicted scenes began to appear repeatedly in my dreams, not unlike the 'dreams of traumatic neurotics' Freud spoke of in 'Beyond the pleasure principle.

By Matsumura Chiyeko, Source: Occasionally I felt disoriented, pursued by the stench of death, and even struck by the 'flashbacks' of corpses floating, as I walked along the river of Hiroshima. By Nakano Ken'ichi, Source: By Enomoto Yoshiye, Source: Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum I was captured by the traumatic force of the drawings, the visual representation of the memories of original trauma, as if the force of other's trauma was being transmitted to my body.

This kind of story is usually written off as mere anecdotes of the fieldwork and not given serious consideration in academic endeavour, especially in the filed of sociology, despite its claim to study 'social worlds. Lifton, and then Freud's theory of identification, in an attempt to make sense of my affective responses during a description of the transmission a story which is horrific fieldwork, especially to the A-bomb drawings.

In reading the drawings in particular, I will also briefly take a look at Jill Bennett's work on art and affect, before moving to Hirsch's and Morrison's theories of memory and transmission of trauma. Finally, I will introduce the sociologically-informed theory of haunting proposed by Avery Gordon, in order to bring forth an emancipatory possibility in transmission of trauma. In this essay, I want to develop different vocabularies to talk about the transmission of trauma by paying attention to what is often neglected or written out from sociologists' field notes: Uncanny interpellation and the subjectivity of the monumental space Benedict Anderson, in the opening section of his second chapter in Imagined Communities, observes the tombs of Unknown Soldiers being 'saturated with ghostly national imaginings' emphasis in original ; [6] National monuments and memorials similarly seem to invite the visitors to sense the presence of those to whom these objects are dedicated and who they memorialise.

The ghostly power of the monuments and memorials is sometimes so strong that it instigates the visiting subject to act on behalf of the ones being memorialised. Such was the case of white supremacist Barend Strydom in South Africa, who shot dozens of black men and women at Strijdom Square in More specifically, Hook proposes to develop a provocative notion of 'subjectivity of place.

Among Freud's examples of the uncanny, Hook gives a particular importance to the case of the 'embodied absence and disembodied presence,' which Freud borrows from E. In the case of Strijdom Square, Barend Strydom gave his corporeality to the symbolic statue of Apartheid ideology and acted out racial violence. At the same time, while the human-figured monument appears animate, it is merely an object and devoid of soul. Presented with the embodied absence, the subjectivity of an individual is hailed to fill the ontological gap between the soul and the body.

The uncanny, according to Freud, presents a 'regression to a time when the ego had not yet marked itself off sharply from the external world and from other people.

In other words, ego-disturbance produced by the uncanny induces subject-object identification, a kind of making of the subject who acts out the ideology the object embodies. Identification in Hiroshima's memorial space Hook's analysis of the monumental space gives us a new way to consider transmission of trauma as ego-affects of the uncanny, which trigger the subject's psychic involvement in places marked by trauma or objects representing trauma.

Before inquiring into various mechanisms of identification in relation to transmission of trauma any further, let us turn back to Hiroshima's memorial space. Although they evoke different sentiments than the Strijdom monument, memorials at Hiroshima's Peace Park and artefacts displayed at the Peace Memorial Museum can be classified as the uncanny, as they appear to have the sort of subjectivity Hook speaks of.

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Not only human-figured memorials, but also remains of the objects that used to belong to those destroyed by the bomb, such as a broken wrist watch and a burnt school uniform, evoke a sense of uncanniness, as they appear to embody the souls of those violently killed by the atomic bombing who have been left behind, unclaimed by anyone.

Having given subjectivity to the objects presented in the memorial space, are we inevitably led to act out the ideology embodied in these objects, as in the case of Strydom? Hiroshima's memorial space provides various means, other than acting-out, to resolve, or at least quiet down, the unsettling affects induced by the uncanny objects. The most widely adopted way is an attempt to quiet the wandering souls of those killed by the bomb by putting hands together in prayer in front of the Cenotaph of the Victims, pledging, 'Let all souls of the victims rest in peace, for we shall not repeat the evil.

Identification as a psychic reaction of visiting subjects is widely observed in Hiroshima's memorial space, which has been largely produced as a discursive space of national identification.

Memories of the atom-bombing in Japan have been produced as a 'national tragedy,' which was firmly set in place as a historical-cultural construction in the mids. Put another way, familial narratives provide a space of identification for most of the visiting subjects to the memorial space.

This narrative strategy is often employed at various memorial sites of violence and tragedy, including museums, because anybody can easily identify with the victim regardless of gender, ethnic, or national identity, so long as they participate in the ideology of the modern family.

Many of those who visit Hiroshima's memorial space identify with the victims, whether through national remembrance or familial narratives, and give their corporeality to, or 'act out,' the ideology of peace and in recent years, of reconciliation. Many do so, for example, simply by praying for peace and others more actively by participating in anti-nuclear activism and peace-education programs. This may be a welcome development for the atom-bomb victims, whose 'unwavering hope' is presented as the 'abolition of nuclear weapons and realisation of a description of the transmission a story which is horrific world peace.

In the process of identification, the object in this case, the victims of Hiroshima can be replaced by the subject.

The object to be identified with is subsumed under and incorporated into the identifying subject, which in turn assumes the position of the identified in this case, the victims.

In the process of identification, therefore, the otherness of the identified other becomes hardly recognisable. Furthermore, the social relations of power between the identifying subject and the identified victims are obscured, precisely because they are presented as identical in this process. The obscuring of social relations of power through identification occurs mainly in two areas, both of which are closely connected to amnesia.

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First, it is produced through the ideology of 'peace' in Hiroshima's memorial space, which is overwhelmingly articulated through the ideology of the nation-state. It positions the atom-bomb victims exclusively as 'Japanese,' while subjugating memories of the non-Japanese atom-bomb victims and particularly those subjected to Japanese colonial violence.

Identification, in other words, works as a defence mechanism for the visitors to Hiroshima's memorial space, while perpetuating the wounds inflicted upon the victims of the atom-bombing. Identification and transmission of trauma Concern over the danger of identification is shared by Dominick LaCapra, a historian who has endeavoured to bring psychoanalysis to the field of historiography.

LaCapra delineates identification as the psychic mechanism of transmission of trauma and cautions against complete identification with the victim on ethical grounds. So-called 'contagiousness of trauma' according to LaCapra, is a phenomenon of 'transference' in the psychoanalytic term. Understanding transference more broadly than Freud and fundamentally as a process of repetition, LaCapra forcefully argues that transference occurs not only between people, but also 'in one's relationship to the object of the study itself.

When you identify with the victim of trauma in 'an uncritical manner,' LaCapra warns, you tend to act-out, or repeat, the victim's trauma. Thus, he proposes 'empathetic unsettlement' as an alternative response to identification.

LaCapra on one hand acknowledges the importance of affective responses, such as empathy and compassion, to traumatised victims, because they limit objectification of the victims and the defence of distancing ourselves a description of the transmission a story which is horrific the traumatic event.

On the other hand, he urges us to recognise the difference between the victim and ourselves and to avoid appropriating the victim's trauma by allowing ourselves to be 'unsettled. As such, it presents the danger of taking over others' trauma and even furthering their trauma. But identification also poses a great threat to those who identify with the victims, as suggested by Robert J.

Lifton, a psychoanalyst who pioneered the study of the psychic effects of atom-bombing on the survivors of Hiroshima. Lifton lists three main factors contributing to survivors' 'death-dominated life' [33]: Closely connecting the 'death imprint' of the survivors with their guilt over having survived, Lifton observes a tendency in the survivors to feel impelled to identify themselves with the dead, who they feel were 'maximally wronged.

The basic psychological process taking place is the survivor's identification with the owners of the accusing eyes as human beings like him [sic] for whom he is responsible, his internalisation of what he imagines to be their judgment of him, which in turn results in his 'seeing himself' as one who has stolen life from them. Lifton provocatively claims that it extends to the whole world.

Because the accusing gaze comes from anonymous dead, it seems to come from the '"all-seeing eye" of an unknown deity, or the "evil eye" of an equally obscure malevolent power.

That same person, on the other hand, feels anxious about being contaminated by the 'death taint' of the survivors. Combining 'identification guilt with contagion anxiety,' those close to the survivors, therefore, are 'torn by conflicting needs to merge with the survivor in total compassion, and to flee from him [sic] in a confused state of guilt and resentment. Their difference in emphasis seems to parallel two directions in Freudian theory of identification.

Three types of identification are discussed in Freud's paper entitled 'Group psychology and the analysis of the ego. This pre-Oedipal stage of identification, or primary identification, sets up a stage for 'the normal Oedipus complex' [44] to develop, where the little boy longs for his mother and wishes to replace his father.

Identification, according to Freud, is, therefore, 'ambivalent' from this very first stage: It behaves like a derivative of the first, oral phase of the organization of the libido, in which the object that we long for and prize is assimilated by eating and is in that way annihilated as such. Identification, in other words, can be conceptualised as a violent psychic act, since it involves annihilating the other, for whom the identifying subject longs, through oral incorporation.

In his discussion of identification with the trauma victims, LaCapra seems to focus on this aspect of identification. But identification as a vulnerable process for the identifying subject is also discussed by Freud, albeit briefly. As a third 'particularly frequent and important case of symptom formation,' Freud turns to a hypothetical case of hysteria being spread from one girl to other girls in a boarding school by 'mental infection. Diana Fuss explains that in the process of identification through mental infection, a passive subject is infiltrated by 'an object not of its choosing.

Put another way, a description of the transmission a story which is horrific is not simply an active process of the subject devouring the other, but also a process of the vulnerable subject being affected by the other. In fact, in their discussions of identification as acting out the ideology or symptoms of the other, neither Hook nor LaCapra refers to Freud's underdeveloped concept of contagious identification. Transmission of trauma can, then, be conceptualised not just as primary or incorporative identification as Hook and LaCapra suggest, but also as contagious identification, where the subject is being infected by the power of trauma affecting the objects of identification, even against his or her will.

A-bomb drawings and identification Now, let us go back to my experience of being captured by the power of traumatic memory through the A-bomb drawings. To read visual images regarding traumatic events, such as the A-bomb drawings, a theory of art and affect developed by Jill Bennett is instructive.

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Engaging with Gilles Deleuze's theory on affect and French poet Charlotte Delbo's concepts of 'common memory' and 'sense memory,' Bennett provocatively proposes a possibility of bodily transmission of traumatic affect through the medium of artworks and visual images.

Bennett's arguments can be categorised as a theory of transmission of trauma which considers the affective responses to the visual images of trauma as engendering, or imprinting, a 'secondary trauma. In a Deleuzian spirit, art, Bennett contends, should be understood as an 'embodiment of sensation that stimulates thought,' [54] not something that is automatically decoded according to what it seems at the first glance to represent, in this case, an event of trauma.

If I were to follow Bennett's theory of art and affect, the A-bomb drawings can be interpreted as the embodiment of survivors' trauma: As such, these drawings catch the viewers' eyes in such a way that they feel as if, even momentarily, they are being transported into the depicted scenes. The drawings also incite the viewers to affectively respond.

In previous sections of this paper, such response was delineated as a psychic act of identification, albeit with different implications depending on each theorist.

While not all drawings include human figures, the vast majority of them depict injured human figures and dead bodies. These images function as a powerful technology of affects that manifests as the uncanny. Hence they unsettle viewers who are impelled to identify with the victims of Hiroshima.

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  2. Being haunted by the ghostly presence of picture-humans, therefore, is not the same as being possessed by the spirits of the dead. The object had this shape, elliptical, and few with us.
  3. I just made some gymnastic exercises, when I saw in front of me, through a porthole, an object which I could not explain … I saw this object and then something happened that I could not explain, something impossible according to the laws of physics. When the worm touches water, it releases tens of thousands of baby worms and contaminates the whole body of water.
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The viewer could, following the theory of uncanny space developed by Hook, identify with the depicted victims and act out the ideology of peace and nation that is represented, not necessarily in the drawings themselves, but in the narrative frameworks that place them in Hiroshima's memorial space. If we take LaCapra's ethical concern in dealing with the other's trauma seriously, the viewers' identifications and reactions might be criticised as appropriating the other's trauma.

Lifton provides another way to read the affective response of the viewers as an internalisation of the 'accusing gaze of the dead. Viewers could sense the gaze of human figures in the A-bomb Drawings, such as in Figure 1 and Figure 2directed at them and develop 'identification guilt.