Between Trauma and Perpetration: Psychoanalytical and Social Psychological Perspectives on Difficult Histories in the Israeli Context

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This study explores the applicability of psychoanalytic trauma-centered perspectives and social psychological intergroup comparison perspectives to difficult histories of the Israeli context. The study describes 2 test cases of difficult histories in the Jewish-Israeli context at the levels of curriculum policy, teachers, and learners. The first is the Holocaust, a history of victimhood, and the second is the creation of the Palestinian refugee problem, a history of perpetrating harm onto others. Findings show engagement with Holocaust history is officially encouraged through an ever-expanding curriculum and arouses almost universal enthusiasm and pride. By contrast, engagement with Palestinian plight was hampered by erratic curricular policy. It has led to teachers hovering between evasion and risk-taking, incurring hostile student reactions as well as facilitating student openness to the other’s voice. These phenomena seemingly contradict the psychoanalytically inspired view of trauma as difficult history and may be better interpreted from a social psychological perspective. The implications of this study stress the potential of the psychoanalytically inspired “pedagogy of remembrance” in structuring engagement with trauma and point to the utility of social psychological theory in predicting and overcoming learner resistance. This study also illustrates the risks and promises difficult histories of perpetration may hold for educators.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)349-377
Number of pages29
JournalTheory and Research in Social Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - 3 Jul 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This paper was partly funded by the National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation post-doctoral fellowship 2010. Funders had no involvement in conception, implementation, or interpretation of the research.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © College and University Faculty Assembly of National Council for the Social Studies.


  • Holocaust education
  • collective guilt
  • difficult histories
  • intergroup relations
  • social identity
  • trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science


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