Torture, Psychoanalysis and Human Rights  book cover
1st Edition

Torture, Psychoanalysis and Human Rights

ISBN 9781138908604
Published May 3, 2017 by Routledge
278 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Torture, Psychoanalysis and Human Rights contributes to the development of that field of study called ‘psycho-social’ that is presently more and more committed to providing understanding of social phenomena, making use of the explicative perspective of psychoanalysis. The book seeks to develop a concise and integrated framework of understanding of torture as a socio-political phenomenon based on psychoanalytic thinking, through which different dimensions of the subject of study become more comprehensible.

Monica Luci argues that torture performs a covert emotional function in society. In order to identify what this function might be, a profile of ‘torturous societies’ and the main psychological dynamics of social actors involved – torturers, victims, and bystanders – are drawn from literature. Accordingly, a wide-ranging description of the phenomenology of torture is provided, detecting an inclusive and recurring pattern of key elements. Relying on psychoanalytic concepts derived from different theoretical traditions, including British object relations theories, American relational psychoanalysis and analytical psychology, the study provides an advanced line of conceptual research, shaping a model, whose aim is tograsp the deep meaning of key intrapsychic, interpersonal and group dynamics involved in torture.

Once a sufficiently coherent understanding has been reached, Luci proposes using it as a groundwork tool in the human rights field to re-think the best strategies of prevention and recovery from post-torture psychological and social suffering. The book initiates a dialogue between psychoanalysis and human rights, showing that the proposed psychoanalytic understanding is a viable conceptualisation for expanding thinking of crucial issues regarding torture, which might be relevant to human rights and legal doctrine, such as the responsibility of perpetrators, the reparation of victims and the question of ‘truth’.

Torture, Psychoanalysis and Human Rights is the first book to build 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, as well as scholars of politics, social work and justice, and human rights and postgraduate students studying across these fields.


Table of Contents



Chapter 1: Torture: what is it? A definition of the field of inquiry

Chapter 2: Torturous societies

Chapter 3: Social actors of torture


Chapter 4: Paradoxical Multiple Self States and Monolithic Self States: Destinies of the Reflective Triangle

Chapter 5: The emotional life of torturous societies: Monolithic Societal States

Chapter 6: The Splintered Reflective Triangle in bystanders, perpetrators and victims of torture


Chapter 7: The permissibility of torture

Chapter 8: Three fields of application in human rights: responsibility of perpetrators, reparation of victims and the problem of truth

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Monica Luci, PhD, is an analytical psychologist and relational psychoanalyst, with extensive experience in the psycho-social assistance and psychotherapeutic work with asylum seekers and refugee survivors of torture. On the topics of survivors of torture and post-traumatic states in psychological assessment, psychotherapy and research, she has contributed to a number of international conferences and taught in several professional and academic contexts. She is also an author, translator and editor of publications on the themes of trauma, collective violence, cultural studies, transcultural psychology, sexuality and ethical issues.


‘The strengths of this book are subtle and important. It provides a unique and innovative approach to a painful and topical problem. It creates a new methodological framework combining psychoanalysis and human rights, within the context of the actual realities of working with those who were tortured. It is for these reasons that it represents a substantial contribution to the field. Strongly recommended both to specialists and general readers.’Renos K. Papadopoulos, PhD, Professor and Director, Centre for Trauma, Asylum and Refugees, University of Essex, UK

‘A striking and original integration of several fields. Monica Luci’s experience, knowledge and vision enable her to locate torture at all points along a line ranging from a vicious, corrupt and oppressive societal phenomenon to clinical work with victims. Hence the book will deeply interest a plurality of readers, ranging from specialists in human rights to therapists of all schools who need guidance and inspiration in this area.’– Andrew Samuels, former Chair, UK Council for Psychotherapy and Professor of Analytical Psychology, University of Essex

'Monica Luci has written a brilliant and searing book. It is deep and wide reaching, with great courage and fortitude as a writer and thinker, she considers the catastrophic experience of torture: the "what" and the "why" and the "how" of torture. Luci explores what arguably is the most toxic threat to democratic process and civilized society. Among the many heartbreaking conclusions her book arrives at is the terrible destruction of subjectivity that is the aim and outcome of torture. Luci has undertaken, and very clearly achieved, an in-depth exploration of how deeply we can benefit from a psychoanalytic (and social and moral) examination of torture, of torture-driven social formations and of the conditions of social and economic vulnerability which make any group vulnerable to becoming torturers.’ – Adrienne Harris, PhD, Sandor Ferenczi Center, The New School, USA