The Enigma of the Suicide Bomber: A Psychoanalytic Essay

Author(s) : Franco De Masi

The Enigma of the Suicide Bomber: A Psychoanalytic Essay

Book Details

  • Publisher : Routledge
  • Published : 2011
  • Cover : Paperback
  • Pages : 176
  • Category :
  • Catalogue No : 29881
  • ISBN 13 : 9781855758223
  • ISBN 10 : 1855758229
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Why does someone resolve to take his own life in order to murder other people? What is the state of mind which allows him to commit such a monstrous act?

This book explores the mental state that compels certain individuals to perform murderous, suicidal acts and emphasizes that, whereas a suicidal terrorist attack can be described as a crime against humanity, its protagonists cannot necessarily be classified as criminal or insane. There is no such a thing as a "typical" suicide terrorist - each attacker differs in age, sex, family status, culture, and even religion. Indeed, the common elements in suicide terrorism should perhaps be sought not so much in the individuals concerned as in the dynamics rooted in their group, family history or country. It may be extreme situations experienced by the group situations that are either objectively extreme or perceived as such that give rise to paradoxical behaviour at individual level. Psychoanalysis is well placed to consider this terrain. Freud, after all, soon disabused his reader of the belief that the less palatable aspects of psychic life were the exclusive preserve of some aberrant sub-category of people.

Reviews and Endorsements

'While De Masi is a committed psychoanalyst, his work is not that of the one-track missionary. His approach, on the contrary, is a humane antidote to zealotry. In keeping with this spirit, he is mindful of the risk that psychoanalysis may claim too much and too fervently, not least in applying itself to politics. I commend this perturbing, challenging, and highly contemporary book: it is a far cry from the twenty-four-hour cycle of rolling news sound bites, a culture to which we become too easily inured.'
- Daniel Pick, fellow of the British Psychoanalytical Society and professor of history at Birkbeck College, University of London; from the Preface

'Can psychoanalysts concern themselves with momentous social and political phenomena such as terrorism? What instruments do analysts have at their disposal to respond to the myriad questions which they pose? In this book, Franco De Masi implicitly sets himself this challenge and bravely confronts it, offering us a forceful, eloquent, and at the same time fascinating account. He presents us with an initial exploration of a difficult terrain whose features are both unknown and contradictory; there is never a moment of tedium, and the narrative unfolds like a novel or thriller that is impossible to put down, as we anticipate the final outcome page after page.'
- Anna Maria Nicolò, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst; from the Foreword

About the Author(s)

Franco De Masi is a Training and Supervising Analyst of the Italian Psychoanalytical Society and former President of Centro Milanese di Psicoanalisi and Secretary of the Training Milanese Institute. He is a medical doctor and a psychiatrist who worked for twenty years in psychiatric hospitals. Now he lives and works as a full time psychoanalyst in Milan. Currently his main interests are focused on the theoretical and technical psychoanalytical issues related to severely ill patients. He has published several papers in The International Journal of Psychoanalysis and in the Rivista Italiana di Psicoanalisi. He is author and editor of numerous books including Making Death Thinkable.

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