A Jungian Inquiry into the American Psyche: The Violence of Innocence

A Jungian Inquiry into the American Psyche: The Violence of Innocence

By Ipek S. Burnett
Copyright 2020

In A Jungian Inquiry into the American Psyche: The Violence of Innocence, Ipek Burnett’s penetrating cultural criticism enriched with psychoanalytical and Jungian insight offers a timely interrogation of national consciousness in the United States.

Through evocative storytelling, Burnett unpacks the images and myths that run deep in the American psyche—from that of the New World, the city upon a hill, to the Manifest Destiny, the melting pot, and the pursuit of happiness. Against this backdrop, she investigates the vicious cycles of innocence and violence that have dominated American history and continue to reinforce systematic oppression in America, evident in racial and economic inequality, xenophobia, materialism, and more. Burnett’s thought-provoking analysis exposes the ways in which psychological defenses such as historical amnesia, projection, denial, and dissociation work on a collective level, helping America avoid a confrontation with these violent truths of its past and present circumstances, and its national character.

With its seamless multidisciplinary approach and revealing insight, this book will be of great interest to psychologists, scholars, and students of Jungian and post-Jungian thought, depth psychology, and cultural and American studies. Eloquent and accessible, it will engage readers who strive to be self-reflective, well-informed global citizens.


“Ipek Burnett deftly uses Jungian psychology to examine the fantasy of innocence in the American psyche. Her analysis provides much-needed insight into the role of this fantasy in American violence, from police brutality and imperialism, to the American dream of a melting pot and the pursuit of happiness.” – Kelly Oliver, W. Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy, Vanderbilt University, USA, and author of Witnessing: Beyond Recognition

“A Jungian Inquiry into the American Psyche: The Violence of Innocence is a gorgeous and poignant analysis of the pathology of innocence in the collective psyche of ‘America’ and Americanism. The concept itself already reveals an implicit dichotomy of purity in which, external to the self, there is impurity. It is thus an offshoot of the presumption of American exceptionalism in a dirty world. These feared undersides of reality haunt the false consciousness of a society that sterilizes its self-identity of those contradictions through which and by which it could grow into an adult consciousness. In effect, Ipek Burnett brings to the fore the core problem of failing to address the relational dark side of thought: whiteness, after all, is an imagined ‘whole’ without need of others, whereas blackness emerges fundamentally as a relation to that which it is not. This insight is powerfully explored in this thought-provoking book. It is an embodiment of potentiated double consciousness, which is an exploration of what is learned through engaging the contradictions of avowed completeness, perfection, godliness, and innocence. There is thus a blues methodology at work here in the telling of re-telling, as is evident in the narrative of the projected self, its story, its biography, as it unfolds. It is a gift for generations to come.” – Lewis R. Gordon, Honorary President of the Global Center for Advanced Studies and author of Disciplinary Decadence: Living Thought in Trying Times

“With erudition, imagination, and a scalpel—but also with love—Burnett offers a revelatory text on the underlying character of the American political system. Her idea that there is an interweaving of violence and innocence, with the two poles feeding off one another, is an original contribution to the field of depth psychological writing on politics and history. The book is lucid and imaginative and will attract a wide readership outside its base in Jungian studies—and beyond the geographical confines of the United States.” – Andrew Samuels, Professor of Analytical Psychology, University of Essex, UK, and author of A New Therapy for Politics?