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“One afternoon, a patient who had been in three times weekly ... psychotherapy ... left my office after her session, drove down to the train tracks half a mile from my office, and sat down facing an oncoming train.” This tragic event opens the essay by psychoanalyst Susanne Chassay who explores the relationship between private and political terrorism. Her viewpoint complements analyses of violence – that ‘mercurial gestalt’ – by other contributors to this collection derived from a 2003 Cultures of Violence conference held at St. Catherine’s College, Oxford, organized by the Inter-disciplinary Net. From fields as diverse as philosophy, sociology, psychology, history, political science, literary criticism, and forensics, authors consider, for instance, hostility to European minorities; military training and torture; the ‘endemic violence’ aesthetically recorded by Haitian novelists; child abuse in film; female genital mutilation in fiction; or the massacre of Koreans during the 1923 Japanese earthquake. Violence in contact zones in Northern Ireland or in the memory of South African museum directors trying to comply with Truth and Reconciliation Commission mandates is also an object of scrutiny here. Finally, that vexed, primordial issue of violence – nature or nurture? – is probed.