The present article analyses Zadie Smith’s short story “The Embassy of Cambodia” (2013) as a narrative that contributes to the decolonization of trauma studies. In the introduction I will lay out briefly the state of affairs in trauma studies and the relevance of trauma in Smith’s work as represented in White Teeth
For the purpose of this paper, I will provide a close reading of “The Embassy of Cambodia” and I will rely on Michael Rothberg’s theory of multidirectional memory to illustrate how the history of genocide in Cambodia and the history of the protagonist of the story, which is effectively one of slavery, conflate in Smith’s text to bring to the fore silenced histories in a more ethical manner that seeks to put an end to competition and hierarchies within traumatic histories and trauma theory. This paper will explore the different juxtapositions that the story offers between individual and collective experiences of trauma and, in its explorations of multidirectional memory, the juxtaposition of collective histories of suffering.
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