Key Concepts in Trauma from LaCapra

Foundational Trauma: the sense tha traumatic events in the past may be adopted and internalized in such a way that “recovery” or “getting over it” is seen to “dishonor” the trauma, or as a betrayal to the victims.  Thus, the identification with that past experience of trauma becomes foundational in the personal or collective identity.…

Montaigne’s “good witness”

Michel de Montaigne indicates a distrust of witnesses who are sophisticated enough to bend and manipulate a story to fit a preconceived point of view, individuals who “cannot help changing their story a little in order to make their views triumph and be more persuasive” (6): That man of mine was a simple, rough fellow…

Life Writing Authorizes Trauma

Maurice Stevens points out how trauma has long fallen on gendered and racial lines.  The litigious nature of traumatic experience constrains the resulting “in group.”  In the past, railroad companies would employ lawyers in the effort to avoid blame by reducing the number of individuals who could be considered injured (CITATION Stevens) – likewise, Euro-Americans have…

Memory Keeping and Ideological Resistance: Constructing Intimate Social Narratives

Berlant’s intimate publics and Perreault’s autography can both be seen as stages of memory keeping.  But memories carry historical and ideological weight – thus, “memory” is inherently rhetorical and political.  Memories of the past are incorporated into the cultural metanarrative of group identity, and these memories shift with time as the metanarrative “recall” adapts the…

Persepolis changed my views on Iran

We’ve seen so much fear and misunderstanding about the nuclear deal with Iran, especially Mike Huckabee’s comment on “leading Israel to the oven.”  I’m guessing that many of these commentators have not read Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, or Mark Bowden’s Guests of the Ayatollah.  Those books personalized the people of Iran for me (especially Persepolis).  Also…

Can Autography Overcome the Cycle of Trauma?

In the PBS documentary on Auschwitz, they juxtaposed the interviews of an SS guard and a partisan to show how neither side (decades after the war) felt regret about having killed. The SS guard said he thought he was protecting Germany from the Jews, and the partisan was fighting the Germans. Clearly, the partisan (I…

The Sciences, Humanities, and Autobiography

There’s a huge tension between the sciences and the humanities as to what “counts” as knowledge, while the social sciences appear to draw from and contribute to both.  (yes, this is an extreme simplification – each individual discipline within the sciences, social sciences, and humanities will have its own connections and locations within the pantheon…

Pathologizing the Other: From Socrates to Vaccination

When I spoke about pathologizing the victim or pathologizing the survivor, what I was thinking about was how we sort people into “us” and “them.”  Unfortunately, we (as a society) frequently do this with “the young” (e.g. students, young adults, Millennials).  In Plato’s Phaedrus, Socrates pathologizes those who use writing.  He identifies them as individuals who…

Pathology: the Account of Suffered Experience

From Wikipedia article on pathology: Pathology (from the Ancient Greek roots of pathos (πάθος), meaning “experience” or “suffering”, and -logia (-λογία), “an account of”) is a significant component of the causal study of disease and a major field in modern medicine and diagnosis. In my reading, I’m finding this trend where scholars pathologize the attitudes…