Trauma and the Politics of Emotions: Constituting Identity, Security and Community after the Bali Bombing
3.The paradox of trauma: the breaking and remaking of community
The notion of trauma is one of the most complex yet compelling psychological and political issues today. Indeed, the term ‘trauma’ is now used to describe a range of phenomena in politics and international relations: from civilian experiences of war and the psychological conditions of returned servicemen and women, to the effect of witnessing distant suffering through the media. Despite this wide usage, consensus regarding trauma – how to distinguish it, determine how it is physically and emotionally experienced, ascertain its psychological impact, and also how to best help victims through recovery – remains slim, even though debates waged in a range of scholarly literatures. One agreement, however, is that events known as ‘traumatic’ are pivotal, impacting upon victims in a deeply personal and often incommunicable way. Scholars largely agree that trauma involves the experiencing of something so disturbing that one’s understanding of the world and how it works is severely disrupted. Be it a civil war or a terrorist attack, be it experienced as a direct witness or observed from a safe distance, traumatic experiences rupture the linear narratives through which we experience the everyday.5 Jenny Edkins suggests we think of trauma as ‘blurring the very distinctions upon which everyday existence depends’.6 Commonly held assumptions and meanings that have, over the course of our lives, come to defi ne us are stripped away with trauma. A human vulnerability is revealed, and those who suffer it are left to question their capacity to be in control.
Events we label ‘traumatic’ are thus usually defi ned so because they cannot be experienced or processed in the same way as other events. Trauma is experienced with feelings of disbelief and terror, and is accompanied by the inability to reconcile it with the practices and memories we are accustomed to. As Maurice Blanchot puts it, trauma is ‘what escapes the very possibility of experience’.7 Feminist scholar Liz Philipose suggests that trauma is ‘an experience of a world unmade and undone’.8 Cathy Caruth, likewise, describes trauma as ‘the confrontation with an event that, in its unexpectedness and horror, cannot be placed within the schemes of prior knowledge’. 9 Trauma is thus characterised by how it terrorises, by how it ‘breaks down understanding ... and places people in utterly different worlds of feeling’.10 Events or experiences known as ‘traumatic’ are therefore in many ways solitary.
Trauma isolates those who endure it. But individual experiences of trauma can also seep out, affecting those who surround and bear witness. Studies from psychology, sociology and politics speak of a ‘distant survivor syndrome’,11 which suggests that trauma can psychologically and emotionally affect those who have not stood directly in its path. Although obviously less visceral, witnessing extreme violence and suffering can damage a viewer’s psyche by engendering fear and anxiety of death.12 Signifi cant here is a move toward an understanding of trauma that goes beyond the offi cial codifi cation of a direct victim suffering post-traumatic stress disorder. For example, Jeffrey Alexander, Ron Eyerman and Pietr Stompka speak of ‘cultural trauma’.13 They refer to an event or historic period so extreme that it shatters identity and debases a wider sense of public meaning or cohesion. There is also a push to restore or reconfi gure collective identity in the wake of such fragmentation. Violence and an ensuing sense of trauma can then shape the social landscape through which individuals defi ne and redefi ne the place they occupy in the world. Atrocity and its memory can in this way become, as Stompka argues, at least partially constitutive of the ‘main values, rules and central expectations’ that bind community.14 Thus while the pain of trauma may indeed be internal, it is also thought to help create the social attachments needed to constitute community.
Threads of the trauma – the more public meanings it obtains – circle individual and community, and in doing so mutually constitute what trauma means and how its pain and memory become socially defi ned. Discourses of collective solace are established, and as Kai Erikson contends, a community providing both ‘intimacy’ and a ‘cushion for pain’ locates itself midst feelings of trauma’s solitude and fragmentation.15 Politically orientated studies of trauma go as far as to suggest that it is in this way – through the constitution and reconstitution of community after a traumatic event – that present day political confi gurations and policy outlooks can be shaped by experiences of, and the discourses that surround, acts of atrocity. Despite disagreement on numerous conceptual issues, Duncan Bell, Jenny Edkins and Karin Fierke are among many scholars who have shown that trauma is a powerful social and political phenomenon, one that infl uences various aspects of both domestic and international politics.16 Whether instigated by political violence or natural catastrophe, experiences of widespread or publicly visible trauma produce discourses that shape not only how individuals are connected to the world, but also how such connections infl uence the way one responds to the needs of suffering. Edkins’ investigation of memory and contemporary statehood shows that such discourses generally commemorate trauma in ways that foster the reifi cation of existing forms of political sovereignty.
How individuals, and in turn societies, come to remember past traumas and mourn lives lost to events such as war is intimately connected to discourses that reinstate modes of political power and social control. Remnants of such acts linger, shaping social and political landscapes often for generations to come. Consider the legacy of the Holocaust, two world wars in the space of half a century, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, the Cold War, Vietnam, the terrorist attacks of September 11 and now the ‘War on Terror’. Events such as these – no doubt catastrophic and traumatic for millions of people – not only directly infl uence the conditions through which international relations are formally conducted, but they also generate psychological and emotional states that continue to divide the world and shape how contemporary global political relations play out. And, of course, this is only to mention a few of the most extreme and geopolitically destabilising events in world politics. A major challenge remains: to uncover precisely how trauma intrudes into public awareness and in turn, into politics. At the social level trauma often unknowingly helps to constitute the present; it manifests in social discourses and wider cultural dispositions that play a critical though subliminal role in confi guring politics. To begin to address this challenge I now turn to the politics that are at play in the narration of trauma. Implicated here are not only the communicative practices utilised in the giving of individual testimony, but also – and perhaps more importantly – the practices employed by the media and in politics.
Tugasan ini sebenarnya kami pernah buat sebelum ini cuma mungkin soalannya diubah-ubah setiap semester. Namun kehendak soalan sebenarnya adalah hampir sama setiap semester.