"The trauma survivor must find empathic listeners in order to carry on. Piecing together a shattered self requires a process of remembering and working through in which speech and affect converge in a trauma narrative... The communicative act of bearing witness to traumatic events not only transforms traumatic memories into narratives that can then be integrated into the survivor's sense of self and view of the world, but it also reintegrates the survivor into a community, re-establishing bonds of trust and faith in others."
And later, "If to remember is to provide the disembodied 'wound' with a psychic residence, then to remember other people's memories is to be wounded by their wounds." Memory provides the disembodied wound with a psychic residence, and now, particularly for the traumas that are widely dispersed, politically charged, and turned into narrative content for news sites of all kinds, trauma has a digital residence as well, one that is often far-flung from the boundaries that personal or community memory would provide.
"It is only by remembering and narrating the past -- telling our stories and listening to others' -- that we can participate in ongoing, active construction of a narrative of liberation, not one that confines us to a limiting past, but one that forms a background from which a freely imagined -- and desired -- future emerges." This redemptive rhetoric may seem premature, and perhaps even inappropriate, for those of us who are facing an uprooting of life and place and stability in the coming years. But the narratives are being constructed nonetheless, already in process for those of us who have already started having trouble with their visas to the US and those of us who are having to work harder than ever to help maintain our students' status, to those of us whose family or friends have been deported, to those of us who are grappling with the many-headed, invisible monster that is bureaucracy and the policy that is being written on our behalf these days. I hope that by sharing one trauma narrative that involves losing place and safety in a context of hostile and distant policy and an insidious and potentially toxic flow of information will encourage those of you who are able to seek to assist one another in providing listening experiences, using your place in the world and the institutions with which you are affiliated to help articulate the narratives that are building around you. As scholars and creative artists, many of us are highly trained in this particular type of listening. We may not all be in a position to provide psychological or medical support, to give legal advice or representation, or to write public policy, but one person at a time, we can listen to one another.
Thank you for helping me to share part of my story, and please reach out to me if you have any interest in more resources on facilitating these types of conversations. Just briefly, here is a list of the key texts that I used to prepare this presentation, which I have found useful both specifically to understand my history and more generally to understand trauma studies and scholarly activism for trauma survivors.