The Empire of Trauma: An Inquiry into the Condition of Victimhood

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Overview

"An enormous achievement. The Empire of Trauma offers not only an understanding of the anthropology of the concept of trauma in general, but also a very interesting discussion of the development of values and value systems in our globalized world. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time on the issue of trauma."--David Becker, Free University Berlin

"The Empire of Trauma is a nuanced study of the complex and contradictory histories of practices and debates within psychiatry, military medicine, psychoanalysis, political activism, and international humanitarianism. It is a much-needed reflection on the overwhelming hegemony of discourses of trauma and reparation, one that does not dismiss the reality of the experience, but instead aims at clearing a space where the painful utterance may reclaim its evocative force and its effectiveness, and may be heard once again."--Stefania Pandolfo, University of California, Berkeley

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Editorial Reviews

Canadian Journal of Sociology
A model of social inquiry, The Empire of Trauma is a major contribution not only to our understanding of trauma and the nature of victimhood but to our purchase on the times in which we live.
— Joseph E. Davis
American Journal of Psychiatry
This is an unusual book for the psychiatric bookshelf, because the authors seek to stand free of the scientific facts altogether and to ask simply what impact the emergence of the trauma narrative has had upon the world. This, they argue, is the anthropological stance: to ask how ideas emerge in a society and come to be seen as true, and what follows from that truth, without asking whether those ideas are in fact true. Because of this stance, the book will be read as provocative; but it should be read, because the authors have something to say.
— Tanya M. Luhrmann
American Journal of Sociology
The Empire of Trauma: An Inquiry into the Condition of Victimhood makes a signal contribution to the genre of 'the history of the present'. . . . The detail and finesse with which theory and data are woven together for each case makes this book compelling. . . . [I]ndeed, a splendid achievement.
— Veena Das
Metascience
[T]his book presents a well-reasoned discourse on the concepts of trauma, trauma-related disorders, treatment and their relationships to social, political and economic considerations. It will appeal to scholars in a number of disciplines including anthropology, psychiatry, psychology, history and sociology.
— Shameran Slewa-Younan
Times Higher Education - Fred Inglis
A model contribution to this collective effort at understanding and mitigating the world's misery. . . . [This] calm and mighty book is no less than a staccato history of military and civilian suffering since 1914. . . . Splendid.
Choice - A.N. Douglas
A must read for those interested in trauma, this book looks at the ubiquity of trauma and the development of a new vocabulary and discourse of traumatic events.
British Medical Journal - Simon Wessely
[A]s Didier Fassin and Richard Rechtman elegantly describe in their new book, . . . what has happened is nothing less than a fundamental change in what it means to be 'traumatised'. . . . [M]ental health professionals never seem far away from either challenge or crisis, which is why the work is so demanding but also stimulating and never dull. Much the same is true of Empire of Trauma.
Canadian Journal of Sociology - Joseph E. Davis
A model of social inquiry, The Empire of Trauma is a major contribution not only to our understanding of trauma and the nature of victimhood but to our purchase on the times in which we live.
American Journal of Psychiatry - Tanya M. Luhrmann
This is an unusual book for the psychiatric bookshelf, because the authors seek to stand free of the scientific facts altogether and to ask simply what impact the emergence of the trauma narrative has had upon the world. This, they argue, is the anthropological stance: to ask how ideas emerge in a society and come to be seen as true, and what follows from that truth, without asking whether those ideas are in fact true. Because of this stance, the book will be read as provocative; but it should be read, because the authors have something to say.
American Journal of Sociology - Veena Das
The Empire of Trauma: An Inquiry into the Condition of Victimhood makes a signal contribution to the genre of 'the history of the present'. . . . The detail and finesse with which theory and data are woven together for each case makes this book compelling. . . . [I]ndeed, a splendid achievement.
Metascience - Shameran Slewa-Younan
[T]his book presents a well-reasoned discourse on the concepts of trauma, trauma-related disorders, treatment and their relationships to social, political and economic considerations. It will appeal to scholars in a number of disciplines including anthropology, psychiatry, psychology, history and sociology.
From the Publisher

Winner of the 2010 William A. Douglass Prize for Best Book in Europeanist Anthropology, Society for the Anthropology of Europe/American Anthropological Association

"A model contribution to this collective effort at understanding and mitigating the world's misery. . . . [This] calm and mighty book is no less than a staccato history of military and civilian suffering since 1914. . . . Splendid."--Fred Inglis, Times Higher Education

"A must read for those interested in trauma, this book looks at the ubiquity of trauma and the development of a new vocabulary and discourse of traumatic events."--A.N. Douglas, Choice

"[A]s Didier Fassin and Richard Rechtman elegantly describe in their new book, . . . what has happened is nothing less than a fundamental change in what it means to be 'traumatised'. . . . [M]ental health professionals never seem far away from either challenge or crisis, which is why the work is so demanding but also stimulating and never dull. Much the same is true of Empire of Trauma."--Simon Wessely, British Medical Journal

"A model of social inquiry, The Empire of Trauma is a major contribution not only to our understanding of trauma and the nature of victimhood but to our purchase on the times in which we live."--Joseph E. Davis, Canadian Journal of Sociology

"This is an unusual book for the psychiatric bookshelf, because the authors seek to stand free of the scientific facts altogether and to ask simply what impact the emergence of the trauma narrative has had upon the world. This, they argue, is the anthropological stance: to ask how ideas emerge in a society and come to be seen as true, and what follows from that truth, without asking whether those ideas are in fact true. Because of this stance, the book will be read as provocative; but it should be read, because the authors have something to say."--Tanya M. Luhrmann, American Journal of Psychiatry

"The Empire of Trauma: An Inquiry into the Condition of Victimhood makes a signal contribution to the genre of 'the history of the present'. . . . The detail and finesse with which theory and data are woven together for each case makes this book compelling. . . . [I]ndeed, a splendid achievement."--Veena Das, American Journal of Sociology

"[T]his book presents a well-reasoned discourse on the concepts of trauma, trauma-related disorders, treatment and their relationships to social, political and economic considerations. It will appeal to scholars in a number of disciplines including anthropology, psychiatry, psychology, history and sociology."--Shameran Slewa-Younan, Metascience

Times Higher Education
A model contribution to this collective effort at understanding and mitigating the world's misery. . . . [This] calm and mighty book is no less than a staccato history of military and civilian suffering since 1914. . . . Splendid.
— Fred Inglis
Choice
A must read for those interested in trauma, this book looks at the ubiquity of trauma and the development of a new vocabulary and discourse of traumatic events.
— A.N. Douglas
British Medical Journal
[A]s Didier Fassin and Richard Rechtman elegantly describe in their new book, . . . what has happened is nothing less than a fundamental change in what it means to be 'traumatised'. . . . [M]ental health professionals never seem far away from either challenge or crisis, which is why the work is so demanding but also stimulating and never dull. Much the same is true of Empire of Trauma.
— Simon Wessely
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691137537
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 7/6/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 1,044,099
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author


Didier Fassin, one of France's leading social anthropologists and a physician in internal medicine, is the James D. Wolfensohn Professor in the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. Richard Rechtman, a psychiatrist and anthropologist, is medical director of the Institut Marcel Rivière in France. Both are members of the Interdisciplinary Research Institute on Social Issues (IRIS).
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Table of Contents

Preface to the English Edition xi
Introduction: A New Language of the Event 1

PART ONE: The Reversing of the Truth 13
CHAPTER ONE: A Dual Genealogy 25
The Significance of a Controversy 27
The Birth of Trauma 30
Labor Laws 34
CHAPTER TWO: The Long Hunt 40
Cowardice or Death 41
The Brutalization of Therapy 43
After the War 50
A French History 54
CHAPTER THREE: The Intimate Confession 58
War Psychoanalysis 59
A Profitable Sickness 64
Victims of the Self 66
The Issue of Survival 70
CHAPTER FOUR: An End to Suspicion 77
Women and Children First 78
The Consecration of the Event 84
The Last Witnesses 88
The Humanity of Criminals 93

PART TWO: The Politics of Reparation 99
CHAPTER FIVE: Psychiatric Victimology 107
Victims’ Rights 108
The Resistance of Psychiatry 115
An Ambiguous Origin 119
A Relative Autonomy 124
CHAPTER SIX: Toulouse 128
The Summons to Trauma 130
Emergency Care in Question 135
Inequalities and Exclusions 140
Consolation and Compensation 148

PART THREE: The Politics of Testimony 155
CHAPTER SEVEN: Humanitarian Psychiatry 163
One Origin, Two Accounts 164
In the Beginning Was Humanitarianism 171
On the Margins of War 177
The Frontiers of Humanity 183
CHAPTER EIGHT: Palestine 189
The Need to Testify 192
The Chronicles of Suffering 197
The Equivalence of Victims 203
Histories without a History 209

PART FOUR: The Politics of Proof 217
CHAPTER NINE: The Psychotraumatology of Exile 225
The Immigrant, Between Native and Foreigner 226
The Clinical Practice of Asylum 231
A Change of Paradigm 236
The Evidence of the Body 242
CHAPTER TEN: Asylum 250
The Illegitimate Refugee 252
Recognizing the Sign 258
The Truth of Writing 264
The Meaning of Words 269

CONCLUSION: The Moral Economy of Trauma 275
Bibliography 285
Index of Names 299
Index of Subjects 303

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