(Co-hosted by South Asia and Indian Ocean Studies Seminar)
【Date and Time】March 4 (Monday), 2019 16：30～18：00
【Venue】Large Seminar Room 1, 3rd Floor, Research Building No.2, Yoshida Main Campus, Kyoto University
(Building No.34 of the map on this page)
【Speaker】Dr. Imtiaz Ahmed (Professor of International Relations & Director, Centre for Genocide Studies, University of Dhaka）
【Title】Psychology of Violent Extremism: Confronting the Archetypes of Singularity, Fear and Intolerance
Violent extremist narratives are nothing new. Human history is full of narratives which recount the tragic consequences of violent extremism, indeed, contributing to the death and destruction of human lives and property. Both secular and religious discourses, including their respective emphasis on singularity, are held responsible for violent extremism. The list would include Hitler and Mussolini as much as it would include Osama bin Laden, ISIS and the 969 Movement within and beyond Myanmar. The questions that now merit attention are, firstly, whether such narratives deter or reproduce violent extremism, and secondly, if it were always in history, why is it getting a renewed attention in contemporary times? The second question is easier to answer than the first.
Indeed, if we look at the number of people getting killed in terrorism, for instance, it is not that high. In fact, in 2012, about 56 million people died throughout the world for all kinds of reasons, out of which 620,000 of them died due to human violence. War killed 120,000 people, while crime killed another 500,000. In contrast, 800,000 committed suicide, incidentally mostly in developed countries like New Zealand, Japan, Switzerland and France. But then, how many died in terrorist-related killing in 2012? Only 7,697 across the globe. Interestingly, in around the same period, in 2010, some 1.5 million died of diabetes, while obesity and related illness killed about 3 million. So why the death of 7,697 people transformed humans into hauntological or fearful beings, while the fear is less with the annual death of over a million people from diabetes and obesity? A quick answer will be that the latter is voluntary, while the terrorist-related killing is involuntary. And, now with the perpetrator committing suicide using improvised explosive devices, the act of terrorism is nothing less than a ‘leap beyond reason’ or postrational, indeed, with the possibility of anyone, anywhere, anytime becoming a victim. And there lies the fear!
Answer to the first question, however, is much more complex as it involves the human mind or, more precisely, the brain. Indeed, since the tragic history of violent extremism has now become a part of our ‘collective unconscious’ and has evolved into ‘archetypes’ over the centuries, very much in the sense outlined by Carl Gustav Jung, it is in the domain of psychology that much of the answer is to be found. As Jung reminded us, the contents of the collective unconscious “come from the brain – indeed, precisely from the brain and not from personal memory-traces, but from the inherited brain-structure itself.” In this sense, the ‘collective unconscious’ and the ‘archetypes’ are not acquired, but inherited. To follow Jung further on this, the archetype of fear or intolerance, for instance, is “not disseminated only by tradition, language, and migration, but that they can realise spontaneously, at any time, at any place, and without any outside influence.” If that is the case then dealing with it is the only option; any attempt to obliterate it will reproduce it further. As Jung noted, “When spirit is neglected it becomes the source of many pathologies.” But ‘dealing with it’ must also defy and overcome ‘singularity’! Indeed, a multi-layered, multi-versed intervention is what is required for countering violent extremist narratives, not only nationally but also regionally and globally. My presentation will highlight this in some details.
Profile of the speaker:
Dr. Imtiaz Ahmed was born in Barisal, Bangladesh, and is Professor of International Relations and Director, Centre for Genocide Studies at the University of Dhaka. Professor Ahmed was educated at the University of Dhaka, The Australian National University, Canberra, and Carlton University, Ottawa. He is also currently Visiting Professor at the Sagesse University, Beirut. Professor Ahmed is the recipient of various awards and honours. He has authored, co-authored, or edited 22 books and 8 monographs. More than 100 research papers and scholarly articles have been published in leading journals and chapters in edited volumes. His recent publications are: The Plight of the Stateless Rohingyas: Responses of the State, Society & the International Community, ed. (Dhaka: University Press Limited, 2010); Human Rights in Bangladesh: Past, Present & Futures, ed. (Dhaka: University Press Limited, 2014); People of Many Rivers: Tales from the Riverbanks (Dhaka: University Press Limited, 2015); and South Asian Rivers: A Framework for Cooperation, ed. (Berlin: Springer, 2018).
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