Trauma, Memory, Standpoint

With this project, when I’m trying to do is understand the relationship between trauma and writing and learning. This can be complicated by neurological considerations, but we have a little understanding of the complex factors that allow some individuals to overcome trauma while others remain crippled by it. The problem for my research then is that I don’t have sufficient basis for establishing neurological links for these issues. Some however would argue that this is not exactly a “problem” – instead of the general distrust of biological determinism forces many of us to turn to social and cultural explanations without trying to “confused” matters by introducing poorly understood biological mechanisms for directly observed social behaviors.

In the case of trauma, however, I do not believe any complete understanding of trauma at the emotional level or trauma at the social level can be understood without some attempt to bridge this gap of ignorance. The neurological data very strongly indicates that an emotional trauma weather stemming from emotional, physical, or sexual assault, leads to specific and observable changes in brain function. At the same time, however, the root causes of trauma to the individual usually arise from social causes. For example, we can’t discuss the trauma of racism in the United States without looking at the institutional racism as observed in cases of police brutality, segregated housing, and selective redesign of school districts. The social “treatments” of these causes of trauma are not defined or understood biologically – instead policy decisions are made on the basis of ideological beliefs regarding the causes of social injustice, where in this case injustice can also be seen as a way of understanding or trauma that is inflicted upon marginalized individuals. Attempts to “remedy” these social disputes/problems tend to fall along cultural or at least ideological lines – if we look at Sarah Winnemucca’s narratives, for example, we see that the groups in new England tend to be more receptive to the narrative of injustice committed by the US Department of Indian affairs, whereas individuals living in other parts of the United States were less likely to see Winnemucca’s narrative as being true or sincere or relevant to the interests of Euro American expansion and capitalistic progress (see Malea Powell).  Here we see that Euro-American culture nonetheless has differing ideological boundaries which have often been delineated along geographic boundaries, although this is not always the case.  These ideological divides can significantly affect how trauma is defined or accepted within a given region or cultural group – for example, post-Civil War sentiments among white southerners often perceived “trauma” as something along the lines of a young black man “ogling” a white woman, and the subsequent which lynching of a young man was seen as “justice” rather than as the culturally-inflicted drama that sought to destroy families and communities as a means to maintain the marginalization of blacks.

Introducing neurological discourses into this conversation may have little or no if active impact upon the pursuit of actual social justice. instead we have seen from “scientific” research conducted in the 1800s along with Nazi “medicine” that the ideological preconceptions of researchers can significantly affect how science is conducted. we must understand, however, that these issues are not limited to the past nor are they purely the fault of scientists. Instead, we see a similar trend today with Al and I lobbyists have led to congressional laws which prevents scientists from studying the epidemiological issues surrounding gun ownership an firearm deaths. Introducing scientific discourses into social justice discourses leads to an inherent risk that the privileged findings of science can be used to further marginalization and discrimination through biological determinism that may be either financially or ideologically sponsored by those with a vested interest in maintaining either a status quo society or one which engages in even greater degrees of marginalization. 

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