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Mourning, Memorials, and Religion: A Psychoanalytic Perspective on the Park51 Controversy
McGovern Center for Humanities and Ethics, University of Texas Medical School at Houston, 6431 Fannin, Jesse Jones Library Building, Room 410, Houston, TX 77030, USA
Department of Religious Studies, Rice University, MS – 15, 6100 Main Street, Houston, TX 77030, USA
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 1 April 2011; in revised form: 30 May 2011 / Accepted: 31 May 2011 / Published: 1 June 2011
Abstract: This article summarizes a version of the “mourning religion” thesis—derived from the work of Peter Homans and further developed and advanced by William Parsons, Diane Jonte-Pace, and Susan Henking—and then demonstrates how this thesis can shed light on the Park51 controversy. We argue that the Park51 controversy represents a case of incomplete cultural mourning of an aspect of American civil religion that manifests itself in melancholic rage by means of protests, threats to burn the Qur’an (as well as actual burnings of the Qur’an), and vandalism of mosques around the United States. We explore various losses—military, economic, and symbolic—and note that these losses remain ambiguous, therefore preventing closure and productive mourning. The fact that a permanent memorial still has not been built at Ground Zero reflects, and perhaps exacerbates, this incomplete cultural mourning. Also, the fact that Freedom Tower, the building to replace the Twin Towers, is to be 1776 feet tall reflects that the losses related to 9/11 are connected to American civil religion, as 1776 is a sacred year in American history. Setting aside the ethics and the politics related to this controversy, we attempt here to understand this controversy from a psychoanalytic perspective.
Keywords: Peter Homans; William Parsons; mourning religion thesis; psychoanalysis; psychology of religion; American Civil Religion; Vietnam Wall; 9/11; Ground Zero; Freedom Tower
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Carlin, N.; Khan, H. Mourning, Memorials, and Religion: A Psychoanalytic Perspective on the Park51 Controversy. Religions 2011, 2, 114-131.
Carlin N, Khan H. Mourning, Memorials, and Religion: A Psychoanalytic Perspective on the Park51 Controversy. Religions. 2011; 2(2):114-131.
Carlin, Nathan; Khan, Heba. 2011. "Mourning, Memorials, and Religion: A Psychoanalytic Perspective on the Park51 Controversy." Religions 2, no. 2: 114-131.