Trauma, memory and representation
Edited by Ivana Maček
Routledge – 2014 – 214 pages
This volume opens up new ground in the field of social representations research by focusing on contexts involving mass violence, rather than on relatively stable societies. Representations of violence are not only symbolic, but in the first place affective and bodily, especially when it comes to traumatic experiences. Exploring the responses of researchers, educators, students and practitioners to long-term engagement with this emotionally demanding material, the book considers how empathic knowledge can make working in this field more bearable and deepen our understanding of the Holocaust, genocide, war, and mass political violence.
Bringing together international contributors from a range of disciplines including anthropology, clinical psychology, history, history of ideas, religious studies, social psychology, and sociology, the book explores how scholars, students, and professionals engaged with violence deal with the inevitable emotional stresses and vicarious trauma they experience. Each chapter draws on personal histories, and many suggest new theoretical and methodological concepts to investigate emotional reactions to this material. The insights gained through these reflections can function protectively, enabling those who work in this field to handle adverse situations more effectively, and can yield valuable knowledge about violence itself, allowing researchers, teachers, and professionals to better understand their materials and collocutors.
Engaging Violence: Trauma, memory, and representation will be of key value to students, scholars, psychologists, humanitarian aid workers, UN personnel, policy makers, social workers, and others who are engaged, directly or indirectly, with mass political violence, war, or genocide.
‘Engaging Violence is a bold and important contribution to understanding the realities of violence in the world today. Opening a new dimension in cross-disciplinary scholarship, this esteemed group of authors brings together the conceptual, visceral, emotional, and interpersonal experiences of violence for survivors, witnesses, and researchers alike – providing more comprehensive and realistic approaches and solutions. Interweaving personal stories, dynamic ethnographies, and engaged theories, the authors show that our own responses to genocide and political violence – thoughtful and embodied together – can become fonts of research. The chapters delve into difficult issues with honesty, dignity, and responsibility, making both theoretical innovations and practical tools accessible. This original book is a welcome must-read for scholars and practitioners alike.’ - Carolyn Nordstrom, Professor of Anthropology, Department of Anthropology, University of Notre Dame, USA
‘Engaging Violence is a clarion call to arms in preparing and protecting those who face violence by working toward violence mitigation and prevention. Without diminishing the importance of helping the traumatized who suffer directly from continuous and horrific violence, this book is for those who care enough to offer assistance to the traumatized. As someone who has studied trauma since 1974 I recommend that this book be read by everyone who faces the hell of violent behavior as a volunteer or professional, whether working on the other side of the city or the globe.’ - Charles Figley, Paul Henry Kurzweg Distinguished Chair in Disaster Mental Health, Graduate School of Social Work, Tulane University, and Director of Tulane Traumatology Institute, USA
‘This is a book unlike any other I've read. Here one listens in on an extraordinarily candid and valuable transnational conversation among researchers doing psychologically demanding work. The nature of mass violence, the tools it takes to explore it, the ethical and emotional challenges involved in sustaining those explorations are here all so honestly and accessibly discussed. I enthusiastically recommend this courageous book to any scholar and any practitioner who already has, or is likely ever to try to comprehend violence.’ - Cynthia Enloe, Professor of Political Science, Clark University, USA
‘Engaging Violence is a daring anthology to recent approaches to the study of genocide, the Holocaust and mass violence. Method and theory are put into tremendous tests demanding profound personal accountability, reflectivity and intellectual and moral responsibilities. Methods are honed to search personal and authentic understandings of humane situations in which words and symbols are insufficient to render speech comprehensible. It challenges theory to address and reflect over experiences and histories in which researchers question their own ability to comprehend and be a measure. This anthology squarely asks: Can genocide, holocaust studies and mass violence became a compass not only for conducting social research but also for teaching about social reality? This anthology dares to argue that genocide and mass political violence can teach us about society and ourselves profound lessons that other questions cannot fathom. This is an incredible voyage into social life’s horror, terror and trauma; a voyage that emerges with insightful dawn.
Orpheus was able to lure the underworld’s kingdom with his lyre; he, failed however, to bring Eurydice’s insights to the outer world. Distinguished contributors, from various fields of social research, struggle with questions such as: can genocide, holocaust and mass violence research and researchers succeed where Orpheus failed? That is, can we hear Eurydice? What are the adequate personal transformations necessary for understanding Orpheus and Eurydice’s underworld experiences? Is their language comprehensible to us who were not "there"? Can Hades’ experiences and sights become insights for social understanding? The anthology provides a compelling affirmative answer.’ - Meir Amor, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Concordia University, Canada
’Violence takes us to the limits of what we can process emotionally or grasp intellectually. The contributors to this timely and remarkable volume explore how it is possible to translate anxiety into method, thereby providing useful insights and strategies for teachers, clinicians and researchers engaged in the study of violence and the care of the violated. In essays that are at once searingly honest, intellectually edifying and discursively powerful, each author chronicles his or her particular journey through some of the most terrible social landscapes of our times, broaching ethical, psychological, theological and anthropological questions whose repercussions are existentially inescapable, no matter how remote from genocide, war and social violence we may think we are.’ - Michael Jackson, Distinguished Professor of World Religions, Harvard Divinity School, USA
‘Each of the essays in this volume is an exemplary teachable moment that conveys with honesty the richness and depth of human experience from the perspective of the researcher. By casting the gaze on the relationship between their personal histories and their research and teaching in the scholarship on genocide and mass violence, the authors break new ground in this field. They remind us that when it comes to historical trauma, engaging with the aftermath of human cruelty cannot be a disembodied detached process. There are important insights in this book that will add immeasurably to our understanding of secondary traumatization.’ - Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, Senior Research Professor on trauma, forgiveness and reconciliation, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa.
Introduction: Engaging Violence: Trauma, Self-Reflection, and Knowledge Ivana Maček 1. To Work with the History of the Holocaust Debórah Dwork 2. Life in the Trenches: Hope in the Midst of Human Tragedy Ervin Staub 3. "Sometimes I just don’t want to go on…": Navigating Personal and Collective Time and Space in Researching and Remembering Genocides Stéphane Bruchfeld 4. Identity and Mutability in Family Stories about the Third Reich Katherine Bischoping 5. The Question of Legitimacy in Studying Collective Trauma Johanna Ray Vollhardt 6. Intersectional Traumatization: The Psychological Impact of Researching Genocidal Violence in Researchers Giorgia Doná 7. Conducting Fieldwork in Rwanda: Listening and Processing Experiences of Genocide Anne Kubai 8. Research under Duress: Resonance and Distance in Ethnographic Fieldwork Nerina Weiss 9. Making Involuntary Choices, Imagining Genocide, Recovering Trust Ivana Maček 10. Personal and Research Related Links to Trauma Suzanne Kaplan 11. Vicarious Traumatization in Mass Political Violence Researchers: Origins and Antidotes Laurie Anne Pearlman
Ivana Macek is Associate Professor and Senior Lecturer at the Department of Social Anthropology, Stockholm University, Sweden.