The Politics of Repressed Guilt

Description: My new book project, The Tragedy of Silence: Guilt and Democracy discusses the ideas developed in Power and Feminist Agency in Capitalism in the context of totalitarian power. Insofar as guilt feelings initiate a process of critical reflection, the inability of a person or a nation to face up to its guilt paralyzes reflective judgment, necessary for taking responsibility of past crimes and preventing the emergence of new crimes. I expose those defense mechanisms that persons and nations use to evade unconscious guilt feelings, and introduce the idea of the moment of the limit to understand those moments when resistance to totalitarian power becomes a possibility. I suggest that subjects-in-outline who “work through the past” and resolve guilt feelings can break the cycle of negative consequences that result from a failure to deal with guilt. I draw on Adorno and Arendt to develop the theoretical framework, which I bring to bear on the recently emerged court documents of Austrian NS perpetrators as well as recent public controversies surrounding Austria’s involvement in the Nazi atrocities. This book is under contract with Edinburgh University Press, with an expected publication date in December 2017. I have received the WSU Humanities Fellowship to support this project.