Ritual Remembrance: Freud’s Primal Theory of Collective Memory


But just what sort of Oedipus complex does Freud depict in Totem and Taboo? His entire account of the murder and the history it unfolds concerns the actions of a collectivity, not an individual. Freud’s primal collectivity is said to be fortified through “homosexual feelings and acts” (144); its members are referred to as “brothers” rather than sons, which emphasizes the fraternal rather than the paternal dynamic; and any relation between the brothers and a mother figure is entirely absent—in fact, there is no mother to be found. In short, the familial structure Freud describes in no way resembles an oedipal triangle, and it even seems like a stretch to domesticate Freud’s primal crew under the familiar banner of “family.”

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