Conversations with History: Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley

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>Evil, the Self, and Survival: Conversation with Robert Jay Lifton, psychiatrist and author, 11/2/99 by Harry Kreisler.

This interview is part of the Institute's "Conversations with History" series, and uses Internet technology to share with the public Berkeley's distinction as a global forum for ideas.

Welcome to a Conversation with History. I'm Harry Kreisler of the Institute of International Studies. Our guest is Robert Jay Lifton, who is distinguished Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at John Jay College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. For more than forty years as a writer, investigator, and psychiatrist, he has used the skills of a researcher and the imagination of a healer of the mind to confront some of the most disturbing events of our times. As a witness, he analyzes how men and women lose and recreate their humanity in extreme situations. Hiroshima, the Holocaust, the Vietnam War, and now terrorist cults: these are the territory of Robert Jay Lifton's explorations as he probes the profound questions of death and its meaning for life. Robert Jay Lifton is the author of many important works including The Nazi Doctors, winner of the Los Angeles Times book prize; and Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima, winner of a National Book Award. He also wrote Home From the War: Vietnam Veterans: Neither Executioners Nor Victims. His latest book is Destroying the World to Save It: Aum Shinrikyo, Apocalyptic Violence, and the New Global Terrorism.

  1. Background ... parents ... interest in sports and history ... first response to Hiroshima and WW II ... choosing psychiatry ... military service in Japan ... first research
  2. Finding a Focus ... research framework ... focus on extreme situations ... Hiroshima ... developing an ablity to do the work
  3. Research: Survival ... centrality of life and death issues ... psychic numbing ... symbolization of immortality ... transcendent experience ... learning from Vietnam veterans ... the survivor
  4. Research: The Roots of Evil ... from Hiroshima to Holocaust ... Nazi doctors ... biomedical vision of Nazism ... doubling" and the socialization to evil ... Aum Shinrikyo
  5. Lessons Learned ... the value of interviewing ... an act of hope ... the abyss

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