Torture, Psychoanalysis and Human Rights

Book Announcement by Monica Luci (Italy)

lucicoverimage0817wThere has never been a time when the world was without torture. It was in our past, and it is in our present. Only our relation to it has been changing throughout history. Nevertheless our present knowledge about torture seems similar to that of the character Winston in Orwell’s 1984: in the effort to understand the deep reasons for the domination of the Party, he writes in his diary, “I do understand HOW, but I do not understand WHY.” Similarly, we know how torture works and to what extent it exists in the world, but we are far from truly understanding the deep reasons for torture, the rationale that goes beyond the more superficial explanations.

The book Torture, Psychoanalysis and Human Rights (Routledge, 2017) intends to contribute to an understanding of the deep psychological roots of the socio-political phenomenon of torture. It explores the “what,” “who,” and “why” of torture, building a psychoanalytic framework that gives reasons for what is observable at different levels in torturous societies, intrapsychic, interpersonal, and group/institutional.

Accordingly, a wide-ranging description of the phenomenology of torture is provided, demonstrating a pattern of key elements and recurring social and psychological processes. Relying on different disciplines and perspectives (international law, political science, sociology, and, social psychology, among others), the book investigates the socio-political culture that favors the rise of torture, and dedicates special attention to the constellation of phenomena that characterize the behaviors and psychological dynamics of perpetrators, victims, and so-called “bystanders.”

Digging into psychoanalytic concepts derived from different theoretical traditions, including British object relations theories, American relational psychoanalysis, and analytical psychology, the book provides an advanced line of conceptual research, shaping a model that grasps the deep meaning of key intrapsychic, interpersonal, and group dynamics observable in the social actors of torture. The author proposes using this framework of understanding as a basic tool in the human rights field, in order to rethink the best strategies for prevention and recovery from post-torture psychological and social suffering. She suggests that the insights from this inquiry are potentially relevant to human rights and legal questions, such as the responsibility of perpetrators, the reparation of victims, and the question of “truth.”

Ultimately, Torture, Psychoanalysis and Human Rights builds a psychoanalytic theory of torture from which psychological, social, and legal reflections, as well as practical aspects of treatment, can be mutually derived and understood. It will appeal to psychoanalysts, psychoanalytic psychotherapists, and Jungians; scholars of politics, social work, and justice; as well as human rights and postgraduate students studying across these fields.


luciphoto0817wMonica Luci, PhD
via dei Latini, 76
00185 Rome, Italy
Email Monica Luci