Special Issue "Decolonizing Trauma Studies: Trauma and Postcolonialism"

A special issue of Humanities (ISSN 2076-0787).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 July 2015).

Printed Edition Available!
A printed edition of this Special Issue is available here.

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Dr. Sonya Andermahr Website E-Mail
Reader in English Studies, School of the Arts, University of Northampton, UK
Interests: Female trauma narratives, maternal loss, contemporary women’s writing, contemporary British fiction

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

This Special Issue aims to explore the complex and contested relationship between Trauma Studies and postcolonial theory, focusing on the possibilities for creating a decolonized trauma theory that takes account of the suffering of minority groups and non-Western cultures, broadly defined as cultures beyond Western Europe and North America. The issue will build on the insights of, inter alia, Stef Craps’s book, Postcolonial Witnessing, and will respond to his challenge to interrogate and move beyond a Eurocentric trauma paradigm. Authors are invited to submit papers on the theorization and representation of any aspect of non-Western and/or minority cultural trauma. The focus will be predominately, but not exclusively, on literature but could include other artistic and cultural forms and practices.

Dr. Sonya Andermahr
Guest Editor

References:

Bulens, Gert, Samuel Durrant and Robert Eaglestone, The Future of Trauma Theory: Contemporary Literary and Cultural Criticism (Routledge, 2013).

Stef Craps, Postcolonial Witnessing: Trauma Culture Out of Bounds (Palgrave, 2013).

Dolores Herrero and Sonia Baelo-Allue, The Splintered Glass: Facets of Trauma in the Post-Colony and Beyond (Rodopi, 2011).

Ogaga Ifowodo, History, Trauma and Healing in Postcolonial Narratives: Reconstructing Identities (Palgrave, 2013).

Cristina Sandru, World’s Apart: A Postcolonial Reading of Post-1945 East-Central European Culture (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2013).

Irene Visser, "Trauma Theory: Global Aspirations and Local Emendations." In The Local and Global in Postcolonial Literature, ed. P. Punyashee (New Delhi: Authorspress, 2014), pp 40–57.

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Humanities is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

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Keywords

  • decolonized trauma theory
  • representing minority group suffering
  • representing non-Western cultural traumas
  • cross-cultural ethical engagement

Published Papers (12 papers)

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Editorial

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Open AccessEditorial
“Decolonizing Trauma Studies: Trauma and Postcolonialism”—Introduction
Humanities 2015, 4(4), 500-505; https://doi.org/10.3390/h4040500 - 24 Sep 2015
Cited by 3
Abstract
This Special Issue aims to explore the complex and contested relationship between trauma studies and postcolonial criticism, focusing on the ongoing project to create a decolonized trauma theory that attends to and accounts for the suffering of minority groups and non-Western cultures, broadly [...] Read more.
This Special Issue aims to explore the complex and contested relationship between trauma studies and postcolonial criticism, focusing on the ongoing project to create a decolonized trauma theory that attends to and accounts for the suffering of minority groups and non-Western cultures, broadly defined as cultures beyond Western Europe and North America. [...] Full article

Research

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Open AccessArticle
Shock and Awe: Trauma as the New Colonial Frontier
Humanities 2016, 5(1), 14; https://doi.org/10.3390/h5010014 - 05 Feb 2016
Cited by 6
Abstract
The health of Indigenous girls in Canada is often framed and addressed through health programs and interventions that are based on Western values systems that serve to further colonize girls’ health and their bodies. One of the risks of the recent attention paid [...] Read more.
The health of Indigenous girls in Canada is often framed and addressed through health programs and interventions that are based on Western values systems that serve to further colonize girls’ health and their bodies. One of the risks of the recent attention paid to Indigenous girls’ health needs broadly and to trauma more specifically, is the danger of contributing to the “shock and awe” campaign against Indigenous girls who have experienced violence, and of creating further stigma and marginalization for girls. A focus on trauma as an individual health problem prevents and obscures a more critical, historically-situated focus on social problems under a (neo)colonial state that contribute to violence. There is a need for programs that provide safer spaces for girls that address their intersecting and emergent health needs and do not further the discourse and construction of Indigenous girls as at-risk. The author will present her work with Indigenous girls in an Indigenous girls group that resists medical and individual definitions of trauma, and instead utilizes an Indigenous intersectional framework that assists girls in understanding and locating their coping as responses to larger structural and systemic forces including racism, poverty, sexism, colonialism and a culture of violence enacted through state policy and practices. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Decolonization of Trauma and Memory Politics: Insights from Eastern Europe
Humanities 2016, 5(1), 7; https://doi.org/10.3390/h5010007 - 18 Jan 2016
Cited by 2
Abstract
The movement to decolonize trauma theory conceptualizes traumas as rooted in particular contexts. Scholars working within this framework caution against the monumentalism of traumas as singular events and press for the acknowledgment of traumas experienced by minorities and liminal groups. In addition, this [...] Read more.
The movement to decolonize trauma theory conceptualizes traumas as rooted in particular contexts. Scholars working within this framework caution against the monumentalism of traumas as singular events and press for the acknowledgment of traumas experienced by minorities and liminal groups. In addition, this body of literature suggests a question of fundamental significance to memory politics: How to make sure that postcolonial attempts to memorialize the traumatic histories of colonialism do not become sources of state subjugation and oppression? Using examples from Eastern Europe, this article analyzes the complexity of memory landscapes in this region and the difficulty of acknowledging traumas of “non-Western” groups on their own terms. Drawing on works by three authors from the region (Ene Kõresaar, Svetlana Aleksievich and Jasmina Husanović), this essay identifies alternative ways of thinking about the nexus of trauma and difference by addressing how complexity and vulnerability can help to transcend competing victimhoods in Eastern Europe and elsewhere. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Postcolonial Trauma Theory in the Contact Zone: The Strategic Representation of Grief in Edwidge Danticat’s Claire of the Sea Light
Humanities 2015, 4(4), 834-860; https://doi.org/10.3390/h4040834 - 20 Nov 2015
Abstract
This article starts by engaging in a dialogue with the most relevant postcolonial emendations to trauma theory, addressed to both its aporetic and its therapeutic trends, and it goes on to reflect on the state of the decolonizing trauma theory project, critically examining [...] Read more.
This article starts by engaging in a dialogue with the most relevant postcolonial emendations to trauma theory, addressed to both its aporetic and its therapeutic trends, and it goes on to reflect on the state of the decolonizing trauma theory project, critically examining the motivations behind it as well as some of the problems it still encounters, like the risk of objectification and revictimization of postcolonial peoples, the blurring of their trauma particularities, and the appropriation of their experience. Then, it proposes an alternative understanding of postcolonial trauma theory as a contact zone where trauma criticism and the postcolony are interrelated and mutually transformed, and where unequal power relations are also attended to. Acknowledging the postcolony as a site of theory production rather than the object of external definition, it proceeds to analyze Edwidge Danticat’s short story cycle Claire of the Sea Light: its strategic representation of grief—which she achieves through the short story cycle structure and overall in-betweenness and ambivalence in symbols and characterization—puts Haitians on the critical map of trauma, fighting invisibility and oblivion, but it simultaneously resists an appropriation of Haitian experience by rejecting any monolithic view on Haiti and refusing to fit into a predetermined template. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Manilaner’s Holocaust Meets Manileños’ Colonisation: Cross-Traumatic Affiliations and Postcolonial Considerations in Trauma Studies
Humanities 2015, 4(4), 818-833; https://doi.org/10.3390/h4040818 - 19 Nov 2015
Abstract
After interrogating the (non-)referential status of the Holocaust for Asians, this essay examines Frank Ephraim’s Escape to Manila and Juergen Goldhagen’s Manila Memories. In particular, cross-traumatic affiliation is studied between two groups of people: the Manilaner and the Manileños: the former were Europeans [...] Read more.
After interrogating the (non-)referential status of the Holocaust for Asians, this essay examines Frank Ephraim’s Escape to Manila and Juergen Goldhagen’s Manila Memories. In particular, cross-traumatic affiliation is studied between two groups of people: the Manilaner and the Manileños: the former were Europeans who fled Nazism and sought refuge in Manila; the latter were Filipino residents of Manila who, during the Second World War, found themselves under Japanese Occupation. A closer reading of the memoirs, however, also reveals latent orientalism in the portrayal of Filipinos. This essay thus echoes present postcolonial concerns in recent Trauma Studies research which ask the place of serial colonisations, martial law, climate catastrophes and the sacred in Trauma theory. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Oranges and Sunshine: The Story of a Traumatic Encounter
Humanities 2015, 4(4), 714-725; https://doi.org/10.3390/h4040714 - 20 Oct 2015
Abstract
This paper will rely on some well-known theories on trauma, memory and ethics to study how Jim Loach’s debut film Oranges and Sunshine (2010) testifies to the traumatic deportation of up to 150,000 British children to distant parts of the Empire, mainly Australia, [...] Read more.
This paper will rely on some well-known theories on trauma, memory and ethics to study how Jim Loach’s debut film Oranges and Sunshine (2010) testifies to the traumatic deportation of up to 150,000 British children to distant parts of the Empire, mainly Australia, until 1970. Oranges and Sunshine was based on Margaret Humphreys’ moving memoir, originally entitled Empty Cradles (1994) but later re-titled Oranges and Sunshine after Loach’s film. What these two texts basically claim is the need to recover historic memory through heart-breaking acts of remembrance, which can alone denounce the atrocities that were concomitant with the colonial enterprise and pave the way for disclosing and working through individual and collective traumas. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Australian Aboriginal Memoir and Memory: A Stolen Generations Trauma Narrative
Humanities 2015, 4(4), 661-675; https://doi.org/10.3390/h4040661 - 19 Oct 2015
Cited by 7
Abstract
This article proposes a re-reading of Aboriginal author Sally Morgan’s Stolen Generations narrative My Place (1987) in post-Apology Australia (2008–present). The novel tells the story of Morgan’s discovery of her maternal Aboriginal origins through the life-stories of her mother and grandmother; the object [...] Read more.
This article proposes a re-reading of Aboriginal author Sally Morgan’s Stolen Generations narrative My Place (1987) in post-Apology Australia (2008–present). The novel tells the story of Morgan’s discovery of her maternal Aboriginal origins through the life-stories of her mother and grandmother; the object of a quest for the past that is both relational and matrilineal; incorporating elements of autobiography and as-told-to memoirs to create a form of choral autoethnography. Morgan’s text explores the intergenerational consequences of child removal in the Aboriginal context and is representative of Indigenous-authored narratives in its suggestion that the children and grand-children of victims of colonial policies and practices can work through the trauma of their ancestors. I examine the literary processes of decolonization of the Indigenous writing/written self and community; as well as strategies for individual survival and cultural survivance in the Australian settler colonial context; especially visible through the interactions between traumatic memories and literary memoirs, a genre neglected by trauma theory’s concern with narrative fragmentation and the proliferation of “themed” life-writing centered on a traumatic event. This article calls for a revision of trauma theory’s Eurocentrism through scholarly engagement with Indigenous experiences such as Morgan’s and her family in order to broaden definitions and take into account collective, historical, and inherited trauma. Full article
Open AccessArticle
A Journey across Multidirectional Connections: Linda Grant’s The Cast Iron Shore
Humanities 2015, 4(4), 535-553; https://doi.org/10.3390/h4040535 - 09 Oct 2015
Abstract
Among the numerous groups that have negotiated their fragmented identities through various literary practices in the last few decades, the Jewish collective has come to symbolize the epitome of diaspora and homelessness. In particular, British-Jewish writers have recently started to reconstruct their fragmented [...] Read more.
Among the numerous groups that have negotiated their fragmented identities through various literary practices in the last few decades, the Jewish collective has come to symbolize the epitome of diaspora and homelessness. In particular, British-Jewish writers have recently started to reconstruct their fragmented memories through writing. This is an extremely interesting phenomenon in the case of those Jewish women who are fiercely struggling to find some sense of personhood as Jewish, British, female, immigrant subjects. Linda Grant’s novel The Cast Iron Shore will be analyzed so as to unveil the narrative mechanisms through which many of the identity tensions experienced by contemporary Jewish women are exhibited. The different stages in the main character’s journey will be examined by drawing on theories on the construction of Jewish identity and femininity, and by applying the model of multidirectional memory fostered by various contemporary thinkers such as Michael Rothberg, Stef Craps, Max Silverman, and Bryan Cheyette. The main claim to be demonstrated is that this narration links the (hi)stories of oppression and racism endured both by the Jewish and the Black communities in order to make the protagonist encounter the Other, develop her mature political self, and liberate her mind from rigid religious, patriarchal, and racial stereotypes. The Cast Iron Shore becomes, then, a successful attempt to demonstrate that the (hi)stories of displacement endured by divergent communities during the twentieth century are connected, and it is the establishment of these connections that can help contemporary Jewish subjects to claim new notions of their personhood in the public sphere. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Decolonizing Trauma: A Study of Multidirectional Memory in Zadie Smith’s “The Embassy of Cambodia”
Humanities 2015, 4(4), 523-534; https://doi.org/10.3390/h4040523 - 29 Sep 2015
Cited by 1
Abstract
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 [...] Read more.
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 and NW. 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. Full article
Open AccessArticle
The Question of “Solidarity” in Postcolonial Trauma Fiction: Beyond the Recognition Principle
Humanities 2015, 4(3), 369-392; https://doi.org/10.3390/h4030369 - 07 Sep 2015
Cited by 1
Abstract
Dominant theorizations of cultural trauma often appeal to the twinned notions of “recognition” and “solidarity”, suggesting that by inviting readers to recognize distant suffering, trauma narratives enable forms of cross-cultural solidarity to emerge. This paper explores and critiques that argument with reference to [...] Read more.
Dominant theorizations of cultural trauma often appeal to the twinned notions of “recognition” and “solidarity”, suggesting that by inviting readers to recognize distant suffering, trauma narratives enable forms of cross-cultural solidarity to emerge. This paper explores and critiques that argument with reference to postcolonial literature. It surveys four areas of postcolonial trauma, examining works that narrate traumatic experiences of the colonized, colonizers, perpetrators and proletarians. It explores how novelists locate traumatic affects in the body, and suggests that Frantz Fanon’s model of racial trauma in Black Skin, White Masks and The Wretched of the Earth remains essential for the interpretation of postcolonial texts, including those to which it is not usually applied. The analysis further reveals tensions between different texts’ appeals for recognition, and suggests that these tensions problematize the claim that solidarity will emerge from sympathetic engagement with trauma victims. As such, the paper makes three key arguments: first, that trauma offers a productive ground for comparing postcolonial fiction; second, that comparison uncovers problems for theorists attempting to “decolonize” trauma studies; and third, that trauma theory needs to be supplemented with systemic material analyses of particular contexts if it is not to obfuscate what makes postcolonial traumas distinct. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Decolonizing Trauma Theory: Retrospect and Prospects
Humanities 2015, 4(2), 250-265; https://doi.org/10.3390/h4020250 - 23 Jun 2015
Cited by 6
Abstract
Decolonizing trauma theory has been a major project in postcolonial literary scholarship ever since its first sustained engagements with trauma theory. Since then, trauma theory and postcolonial literary studies have been uneasy bedfellows, and the time has now come to take stock of [...] Read more.
Decolonizing trauma theory has been a major project in postcolonial literary scholarship ever since its first sustained engagements with trauma theory. Since then, trauma theory and postcolonial literary studies have been uneasy bedfellows, and the time has now come to take stock of what remains in postcolonial trauma studies from the original formulations of trauma theory, and see which further steps must be envisaged in order to reach the ideal of a truly decolonized trauma theory today. To this end, this article presents a detailed overview of the short history and the present situation of the trajectory of decolonizing trauma theory for postcolonial studies, clarifying the various re-routings that have so far taken place, and delineating the present state of the project, as well as the need for further developments towards an increased expansion and inclusiveness of the theory. I argue that openness to non-Western belief systems and their rituals and ceremonies in the engagement with trauma is needed in order to achieve the remaining major objectives of the long-standing project of decolonizing trauma theory. Full article

Other

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Open AccessMeeting Report
Decolonizing Trauma Studies Round-Table Discussion
Humanities 2015, 4(4), 905-923; https://doi.org/10.3390/h4040905 - 30 Nov 2015
Cited by 1
Abstract
This round-table, which featured literary critics Professor Stef Craps, Professor Bryan Cheyette and Dr. Alan Gibbs, was recorded as part of the “Decolonizing Trauma Studies” symposium organized by Dr. Sonya Andermahr and Dr. Larissa Allwork at The School of The Arts, The University [...] Read more.
This round-table, which featured literary critics Professor Stef Craps, Professor Bryan Cheyette and Dr. Alan Gibbs, was recorded as part of the “Decolonizing Trauma Studies” symposium organized by Dr. Sonya Andermahr and Dr. Larissa Allwork at The School of The Arts, The University of Northampton (15 May 2015). Convened a week after the University of Zaragoza’s “Memory Frictions” conference, where Cheyette, Gibbs, Andermahr and Allwork gave papers, the Northampton symposium and round-table was sponsored by The School of The Arts to coincide with Andermahr’s guest editorship of this special issue of Humanities. Craps, Cheyette and Gibbs addressed five questions during the round-table. Namely, does trauma studies suffer from a form of psychological universalism? Do you see any signs that trauma studies is becoming more decolonized? What are the challenges of a decolonized trauma studies for disciplinary thinking? How does a decolonized trauma studies relate to pedagogical ethics? Finally, where do you see the future of the field? While this edited transcript retains a certain informality of style, it offers a significant contribution to knowledge by capturing a unique exchange between three key thinkers in contemporary trauma studies, providing a timely analysis of the impact of postcolonial theory on trauma studies, the state of the field and its future possibilities. Issues addressed include the problematic scholarly tendency to universalize a western model of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD); the question of the centrality of the Holocaust in trauma studies and the implications of this for the study of atrocities globally; the vexed issues posed by the representation of perpetrators; as well as how the basic tenets of western cultural trauma theory, until recently so often characterized by a Caruth-inspired focus on belatedness and afterwardness, are being rethought, both in response to developments in the US and in answer to the challenge to ‘decolonize’ trauma studies. Full article
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