Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences and Letters (DKNVS), Elvegata 17, 7012 Trondheim, 10. Mai 2019, 13:30 – 15:30 Panel
Autobiographical trauma narratives and the interplay of history and therapy in the German discourse on PTSD
In my presentation, I would like to focus on two topics and sets of questions: autobiographical trauma narratives on the one hand and the interplay of history and therapy in the German discourse on PTSD on the other hand. First of all, how is trauma communicated in the published autobiographic narratives of those who have survived traumatic events in the late 20th century? How do humans frame their experiences, and when and how do they use the term “trauma”? Does this vary across different social and political groups such as rape survivors, veterans of the Afghanistan war and political prisoners in the former GDR? How is this “trauma narrative” then shaped by the inner logic of published autobiographic narratives?
Secondly, historians can learn from the rise of psychotraumatology how certain historic experiences are nowadays defined and understood by a powerful medical concept. They can analyze the ways in which practitioners are “making up people” (Ian Hacking) by investing massive resources into different strands of trauma therapy. In this way, psychotraumatology is successfully changing the way historians look at history and is possibly turning individual experiences into trauma narratives. With the help of historiography, practitioners, on the other side, might want to understand how their specific medical vocabulary is rooted in history and does not add to a generally valid body of knowledge but to a very limited, time- and placespecific understanding of human experience.
Photo: Trondheim, panoramic view from Byåsen by Jan Frode Haugseth.