This is an independent blog and is not affiliated with any particular church, group or conference. The term Bruderthaler refers to a specific ethnic or cultural Mennonite heritage, not to any particular organized group. All statements and opinions are solely those of the contributor(s). Blog comprises notebook fragments from various research projects and discussions. Dialogue, comment and notice of corrections are welcomed. Much of this content is related to papers and presentations that might be compiled at a future date, as such, this blog serves as a research archive rather than as a publication. 'tag

Friday, December 9, 2011

Elisabeth Young-Bruehl (1946 – 2011)

Elisabeth Young-Bruehl
en Fäauadeel
     The New York Times (06 Dec 2011) reports that Elisabeth Young-Bruehl has passed away in Toronto.  Young-Bruehl is a biographer and Freudian philosopher – as the Times reports, best known for her bestselling classics Hannah Arendt:  For Love of the World, and Anna Freud:  A Biography.   
    Arendt is a political philosopher and émigré from World War II, being known for both having dated the German philosopher Martin Heidegger and for her own studies of Totalitarianism and moral investigations into the origins of the Holocaust.  Freud, the daughter of the great psychoanalyst founder, followed her father’s footsteps into his profession and made numerous significant contributions to the study of psychoanalysis.

     Young-Bruehl would be of interest to Mennonites – especially Russländer Mennonites, for these biographies alone. 
    Apart from her father’s depth of clarity into the individual consciousness, both Sigmund and Anna Freud also expended considerable energies studying and analyzing group consciousness and relationships – especially that of the rising Jewish ethnicity in fin-de-siécle Vienna.  Sigmund represented the intellectual and cultural arrival of the Jewish culture of Eastern Europe.  Only in 1867 were the Jews of the Austro-Hungarian Empire recognized as equal citizens and granted full civil rights.  So Sigmund had ample opportunity and reason to strive for a better understanding of the entire Jewish experience in Central and Eastern Europe, including matters of assimilation, segregation and the formation or retention of cultural identity.  Many of Freud's observations and thoughts are possible progenitors of later Mennonite sociological models such as Calvin Wall Redekop’s Embarrassment of a Religious Tradition, and that of the Ghost of Ethnicity.
    Anna Freud continued her father’s interests in both the individual and the collective identity.
Hannah Arendt
Anna Freud
   Hannah Arendt is useful for understanding some of the darker areas of the Mennonite and Amish psyche for she probed the depths of the individual’s relationship to the greater society in morality, identity and conformity.  She attempted to understand the individual morality that had recently justified the horrors of the Holocaust in the minds of those who carried out its day-to-day operations.   
    Her conclusions were startling simple.  To Arendt, evil (such as the Holocaust) was banal.  Decisions to participate in the slaughter of the Holocaust, she found, were simple and mundane, almost bureaucratic.  The people who committed the atrocities were normal people of no particular special giftedness, ideology or depravity – merely people who felt they had a job or a task to do.
    Though most Mennonites and Amish participate in a lively intellectual tradition involving theological and historical debate, criticism and analysis, it would behoove us to pay more and better attention to other fields such as sociology, psychology, governance and economics.  As we enter into an age of Modernization with greater conflict between the group and the individual and fuzzier boundaries between moral stances, a closer study of Arendt should help us to identify and clarify further issues of pertinence to our own culture.  Greater cultural criticism by our own poets, writers and artists requires that we search harder for our own cultural self-understanding.
    For Russländer, Arendt also provokes uncomfortable questions regarding our own relationships to mass cultural disasters such as the Holocaust and the Halodomar.  To what extent were we aware, culpable or even victimized by these events?  Did we do enough to prevent them?  These are questions that we have quietly shunted away from for decades.  Yet, if our shared cultural heritage of the Golden Age in Chortitza and Molotschna is going to have lasting impact, this is an era and these are the questions with which we will one day have to deal much more effectively.
    Amish and American Mennonites are not be let off the hook so lightly either – for their fight against, or tolerance of the slavery of African-Americans prior to the Civil War is just as pertinent to Arendt’s models as is the Holocaust.  One might be interested to go so far as to examine the wars against First Nations and Native Americans in the United States and Canada and the many benefits accrued to the Mennonite and Amish communities as North Americans by these wars.
    Additional writings by Young-Bruehl might serve to guide us further along this path.  Beyond her major biographies of Freud and Arendt, Young-Bruehl, herself an accomplished psychoanalyst, contributed writings such as The Anatomy of Prejudice and soon-to-be-released Childism.
    Where Freud establishes group and individual identity formation and its conflicts, and where Arendt explores the moral bargaining between the individual and society (or lack thereof), Young-Bruehl deals with the relationships between the group and the individual as a moral issue.  Previously, I have referred to this as the need to resolve the difficult group relationship to the traditional Anabaptist archetype, der Anderen – those who belong to the group but are differentiated in such a way that their right or feeling of belonging is mitigated.  In Young-Bruehl’s modeling, the mitigating factor she would explore is that of prejudice.
    Margalit Fox, writer for the New York Times, summarizes from Prejudice that Young-Bruehl identified four types or strains of prejudice, being racism, sexism, anti-Semitism and homophobia (see citation below).  Each of these manifestations, Young-Bruehl felt, emanated out of deeper complexes – the obsessional, hysterical and narcissistic.  Note that these are all misdirected preoccupations or sorts of fear – fears that have plagued the Anabaptist world – of the other (der Anderen), sex and the fulfillment of self.
    What is necessary is that more Anabaptist intellectuals, writers and students seize upon writings such as Freud, Arendt and Young-Bruehl to obtain and adjust models through which we might better understand ourselves, our culture, our motivations and our sins.
    Young-Bruehl’s latest work, Childism promises to provoke further controversy and critical self-criticism  as we seek to understand it and apply her observations to the relationships between Anabaptists and their children and between the child and the grosse gemeinde or greater community.  Recent documentaries such as The Devil’s Playground, and controversies such as the debate between church and ethnicity or the inclusion or exclusion of gay and lesbian youth from the community promise to be informed by this new work.
    Young-Bruehl did the Mennonites and Amish a great service by preserving the biographies of two great intellectuals who promise much in the self-analysis of the Anabaptist identity.  Young-Bruehl’s own writings promise further insights and revelations into our own unique experience.  The challenge in her death is for us to take up this task for ourselves and better explore some of these issues on our own – communally.

  • Arendt, Hannah, Eichmann in Jerusalem:  A Report on the Banality of Evil, Penguin Classics, 2006, p 336.
  • Cuddihy, John Murray, Ordeal of Civility:  Freud, Marx, Levi-Strauss, and the Jewish Struggle with Modernity, Beacon Press, 1987, p 272.
  • Fox, Margalit, "Elisabeth Young-Bruehl, Who Probed Roots of Ideology and Bias, Dies at 65," New York Times, New York, NY, USA, 06 Dec 2011, p A27.
  • Martin, Sandra, "Elisabeth Young-Bruehl dug deep to understand the roots of prejudice," The Globe and Mail, Toronto, ONT, Canada, 07 Dec 2011, from downloaded 07 Dec 2011.
  • Redekop, Calvin Wall, "Embarrassment of a Religious Tradition, The," Mennonite Life, V 36, Sept 1981, No 3.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Mennonite Culture

606 agriculture AIMM Alcohol Alt-Oldenburger Amish Amish Prayer Amish voyeurism Anniversary of Russian Mennonites Architecture Archives Athletes Baptism Bess und Bettag Bible Study Bluffton College BMC Bob Jones University Bruderthaler Burial Customs Camp Funston Canadian Government Catherine the Great CCC Chaco Civil Rights Colonist Horse Congo Inland Mission Conscientious Objectors Consensus Cultural Criticism Death decals Definitions Dialogue diaspora Discipline Discrimination Divorce Drama Drugs Easter Emergent Church Movement ethnic violence Ethnicity Evangelical Mennonite Brethren Evangelical Mennonites Evangelicals exile Famine Fastpa folk art Footwashing Frente Menonita Front for the Defense of the Mennonite Colonies Furor mennoniticus Gardens gay Gay Marriage Gelassenheit Gemeinshaft Gender Studies General Conference German German Bible Gnadenfelde Goshen School Grace School grief Halodomar hate crimes Heirloom Seeds HMS Titanic Holocaust Holy Kiss Horses Hymns Identity Formation identity politics Immigration Immigration Song Inquisition Inter-faith Mennonites Jewish Diaspora Kairos Kleine Gemeinde Krimmer Mennonites Language LGBT Lustre Synthesis Lutheran and Mennonite Relations Magistracy Marriage Martyrs' Mirror MC-USA MCC Kits Mennonite Brethren Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Mennonite Decals Mennonite Diaspora Mennonite farming innovations Mennonite Flag Mennonite Heritage Plants Mennonite Horse Mennonite Identity Mennonite Literature Mennonite Refugees Mennonite Women Missions Molotschna Cattle Breed Movies Music Non-resistance Pacifism photography Pietism Plautdietsch Flag Plautdietsche Poetry Politics Postmodernism quilts Radio refugees Rites Roman Catholic and Mennonite Relations Roman Catholicism Russian Mennonite Flag Russian Mennonites Russian Orthodox Church secularism Shunning Southern Baptists Taxation Television Ten Thousand Villages Terms Viki-leaks Water Dowsing Wenger Mennonites Women's Studies World War 2 World War I


A. F. Wiens (1) A. H. Leahman (1) A. J. Wall (1) Abraham Gerber (1) Abram Groening (1) Adam Carroll (2) AIMM (3) Albert Wall (7) Allison Mack (1) Anne-Marie Goertzen Wall (1) Annie C. Funk (1) Aron Wall (1) B. F. Hamilton (1) Benjamin Mubenga (1) Benjamin Sprunger (1) Bernhard Dueck Kornelssen (1) Berry Friesen (1) Bitter Poets (3) Bob Jones University (2) Brandon Beachy (1) Brendan Fehr (1) Bruce Hiebert (1) C. Henry Niebuhr (1) C. R. Voth (1) Calvin Redekop (3) Carolyn Fauth (3) CBC News (1) Charles King (1) Chris Goertzen (1) Connie Mack (1) Corrie ten Boom (1) Dale Suderman (2) Daniel Friesen (1) Danny Klassen (1) David Classen (1) Dennis Wideman (1) Diane Driedger (3) Dick Lehman (1) Donald Kraybill (1) Donald Plett (1) Dora Dueck (1) Dustin Penner (1) Dwaine and Nancy Wall (1) Edna Ruth Byler (1) Eduard Wust (1) Elliott Tapaha (1) Elvina Martens (1) Eric Fehr (1) Esther K. Augsburger (1) Ethel Wall (1) Frente Menonita (1) Fritz and Alice Wall Unger (1) Gbowee (1) Georg Hansen (1) George P. Schultz (3) George S. Rempel (1) George Schultz (1) Gordon C. Eby (1) Goshen College (4) Gus Stoews (1) H. C. Wenger (1) H. F. Epp (1) Harold S. Bender (1) Heidi Wall Burns (2) Helen Wells Quintela (1) Henry Epp (1) Henry Toews (1) Ian Buruna (1) Isaac Peters (6) J. C. Wall (3) J. T. Neufeld (2) Jakob Stucky (1) James Duerksen (1) James Reimer (1) Jason Behr (1) Jeff Wall (1) Jim Kuebelbeck (1) Joetta Schlabach (2) Johann F. Kroeker (1) John Howard Yoder (1) John Jacob Wall (1) John R. Dick (1) John Rempel (1) John Roth (1) Jonathan Groff (1) Jonathan Toews (2) Jordi Ruiz Cirera (1) Kathleen Norris (4) Kelly Hofer (3) Kevin Goertzen (1) Keystone Pipeline (3) Leymah Gbowee (1) Linda May Shirley (1) Lionel Shriver (1) Lorraine Kathleen Fehr (2) Margarita Teichroeb (1) Marlys Wiens (2) Martin Fast (1) Matt Groening (2) Melvin D. Epp (1) Menno Simons (3) Micah Rauch (1) Michael Funk (1) Moody Bible Institute (2) Nancy Wall (4) Norma Jost Voth (1) O. J. Wall (2) Orlando J. Wall (3) Patrick Friesen (4) Peter Wall (1) Philip Landis (1) Phillip Jakob Spener (1) Rachael Traeholt (2) Randy Smart (3) Rhoda Janzen (1) Rob Nicholson (2) Robin Martins (1) Robyn Regehr (1) Roger Williams (1) Rosella Toews (1) Ruth Lederach (1) Sam Mullet (3) Sam Schmidt (1) Scot McKnight (1) Stacey Loewen (2) Stanley Hauerwas (2) Steven Wall (6) Susan Mark Landis (1) Taylor Kinney (1) Tom Airey (2) Victor Toews (4)