The 'Endangered Voices' of the Taiwanese Victims of Japanese Slavery
While the question of justice for the victims of sexual slavery institutionalized by the Japanese Imperial Army during the war has generated great communal and scholarly interest, in Taiwan it remains a pressing and unresolved concern what implications this traumatic history has had for the consolidation of the post-colonial and post-authoritarian publics.This is not only because the sexual enslavement of Taiwanese women unfolded at the backdrop of Japan’s colonization of Taiwan, in particular of the indigenous ‘highlander’ groups, but also because the post-war public (and private) narrativization of this history, and any pursuit of justice, were impossible during Chiang Kai-shek’s authoritarian era. Referring to the victims by the Taiwanese term ‘Ama’ (rather than the more common but problematic term ‘comfort women’), I propose that in contemporary Taiwan the traumatic history of female sexual enslavement is of great significance for the contemporary public life because it functions as a kind of an ‘optic’, which reveals and magnifies broader historical dynamics of colonial appropriation, of sexual and epistemic violence against women, and of the marginalization of indigenous and economically disadvantaged groups. Methodologically, the identification of such ‘optic’ draws from cultural theory of psychoanalysis, which links traumatic experience to ‘unspeakability’ and to psychic repression of overwhelming contents, and from sociological and philosophic insights into silencing as a mode of epistemic violence.
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Alternative Temporal Models of Trauma
This work begins with an examine of the genealogy of trauma as PTSD. I explain how the definition of PTSD developed and what traumatic experiences this model potentially excludes. I then employ Henri Bergson’s conceptions of duration and memory to formulate an account of durational trauma to allow our idea of trauma to include a broader range of experiences. This new conception is a critique of trauma as it is outlined in the DSM diagnosis of PTSD, which construes trauma as evental, individual, psychological, limited, ‘exceptional’ and medical. My aim is to interrogate who this model excludes and what forms of enduring it renders unrecognizable as trauma. I am not claiming that trauma never occurs as an event, but that this event is not contained. It reverberates throughout a life, coloring what comes before and after, is carried forward in the body, and in durational experience. For Bergson, it is recollection’s capacity to permeate the present that would imply that trauma is often experienced as ongoing and durational, most saliently ongoing experiences of marginalization and oppression such as the trauma of homelessness, inequality, transphobia, and systemic racism.
Hannah Gadsby's Nanette, Trauma as Humor, and Epistemic Responsibility
This essay examines the question of whether trauma has a non-exploitative place in marginalized comedy. It analyzes this question through the lens of Hannah Gabsby’s 2018 Netflix performance, Nanette, and explores two questions: (1) if marginalized trauma in the context of comedy extends the traditional framework for evaluating comedy and (2) if audiences are responsible for being “good consumers” of traumatic narratives from marginalized performers. To do this, this essay considers three analyses of Gadsby's Nanette offered, respectively, by Rebecca Krefting, Peter Moskowitz, and Fury. It argues that a new framework for thinking about marginalized trauma in comedy ought to start with the responsibilities of the audience and suggests that we can begin to think about what this means by looking to Lorraine Code's concept of "epistemic responsibility."
Medicine’s Moral Injury
“Physicians aren’t burning out; they are experiencing moral injury.” That claim has struck a nerve among physicians. Moral injury is “perpetrating, failing to prevent, bearing witness to, or learning about acts that transgress deeply held moral beliefs and expectations.” The conversation in medicine juxtaposes metaphorically the ethical and emotional damage of physicians with the experiences of combat veterans. Primary and secondary trauma occur in both medicine and war. This paper uses evidence from medical student writing to describe the symptoms of the trauma and the consequent dis-ease--moral injury. Moral injury is sometimes called "burnout" or "moral distress," and remedies are proposed including meditation, mindfulness, and resiliency skill training. All of those are helpful techniques, but they do not address the deeper pain physicians and medical students are experiencing, nor do they honor the contexts, meaning, and stories of the traditions from which meditation and mindfulness come. Marx’s theory of alienation will deepen the diagnosis of the dis-ease. Creative medical educators and students, practicing narrative medicine, will point toward healing responses for living in creative tension with the dis-ease.
Swallowing Traumatic Anger
In many cases of family trauma, victims are left with the burden of rebuilding relationships that have been damaged. Recovering from trauma and rebuilding the necessary relationships may involve overcoming anger and working to minimize the emotional scars left by the trauma. This paper will aim to illustrate that pressure to forgive can harm victims of abuse. To do so I will draw on Amia Srinivasn’s (2018) work on affective injustice. Srinivasan claims that victims of oppression are often told it is counterproductive for them to feel anger, though anger is the right response to the injustice they have faced. This burdens victims with another injustice of having to manage the conflict between the legitimacy of their anger and its unhelpfulness. Srinivasan calls this affective injustice, as it is an injustice that effects someone in as an emotional (affective) being. I argue that abuse survivors can experience a parallel kind of affective injustice. I will do so by focusing on the example of sibling abuse. Survivors of sibling abuse are often asked to set aside their trauma for the sake of the family unit. This leaves victims shouldering the burden of managing their recovery together with a deliberate neglect of their affective states. This can be a reiteration of the trauma as invalidation and neglect of the victim’s emotions is often part of abuse. Repairing relationships can make the victim re-experience trauma. I will then discuss the implications for forgiveness. Often in philosophy of forgiveness and anger to hold that victims have duties to help facilitate a process of atonement (eg. Nussbaum 2016; Radzik 2009). Forgiveness is seen as morally good, even morally required. I will argue that this work parallels some of the arguments made to victims to pressure them to forgive that are given in an interpersonal context, and can legitimize this pressure. As a result, this work may provide a theoretical framework that imposes affective injustice on victims.
Possession, Dispossession, and Haunting
In Eden Robinson’s Monkey Beach, Lisamarie (Lisa), a member of the Haisla community on the north-west coast of Turtle Island [Canada], struggles with the trauma of existing between two epistemic landscapes and the effects of the physical and hermeneutical violence enacted against her community. Monkey Beach begins with the disappearance of Lisa’s brother while he is on a fishing trip with their uncle. In the days between her brother’s disappearance and her journey to Monkey Beach, where she believes he has been stranded, the stories of Lisa’s childhood unfold: her struggle to enact a Haisla identity in a colonized landscape, her relationships with family members coping with trauma from residential schools, and her own experience of trauma, which reveals to her the world of ghosts that mirrors her own. It is through these ghosts and Haisla sacred rituals that she is able to realize her indigenous identity and heritage within a colonized society in order to resist the persisting hermeneutical violence and resonances of communal trauma, trauma which eventually takes the life of her brother and uncle. Through an analysis of Monkey Beach, I clarify the primacy of epistemic violence and resistance for indigenous peoples. First, Using the language of “possession,” and the trope of haunting in postcolonial studies, I elucidate the relationship between cyclical trauma and epistemic sovereignty. I analyze the trauma that has been inflicted upon the Haisla people by colonial rule, focusing on hermeneutical violence, and the ghostly and “demonic” forces this violence produces. These spirits are created at the moment of a traumatic event or circumstance, but come to “possess” the indigenous residents of the borderland, resulting in the repetition of trauma. Then, I will examine the potential of hermeneutical resistance, such as sacred indigenous practices and imagination, to bear witness to and heal from the trauma of colonial rule.
Depression, Shame, and Projects of Collective Healing
To be a member of a marginalized social group is to face differential risk of traumatizing experiences. I understand trauma as overwhelming experiences comprising discrete events, ongoing patterns of physical and/or emotional abuse, or “micro-insults and micro-injuries” that impose a “cumulative lifetime burden” (Duffy). Using Bartky’s recognition of certain emotional states as “primordial disclosure,” I explore the constellation of trauma, shame, and depression as “public feelings” (Burns; Cvetkovich), and examine social movements as collective responses to trauma which generate important insights for social justice and healing. Mainstream notions of depression (trauma-based or not) frame it as chemical imbalance or brain dysfunction, bracketing social dynamics as extraneous. Critical psychology, however, views these social dynamics as intrinsic to the mechanisms of PTSD and trauma-based depression (Cromby). However, given systemic inequality, mental health can only be fully conceptualized and addressed “in relation to movements” (Barlow). I apply these critiques of mainstream psychology and psychiatry in exploring the societal influences on subjectivity underlying trauma-based shame and depression. Next, I consider examples from social movements within the last fifty years in the US, including pioneering feminist philosophy, the Movement for Black Lives, #MeToo, and Disability Justice (led by queer and disabled people of color with disabilities and chronic illnesses, many identifying with “crip,” a self-proclaimed non-assimilationist identity and culture). These projects embody both an an ethic of interdependence, challenging the radical isolation imposed by differential shame and providing avenues for individual and collective agency.