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Trauma and the Memory of Politics

Trauma and the Memory of Politics


  • Date Published: July 2003
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521534208

£ 23.99

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About the Authors
  • In this interesting study, Jenny Edkins explores how we remember traumatic events such as wars, famines, genocides and terrorism, and questions the assumed role of commemorations as simply reinforcing state and nationhood. Taking examples from the World Wars, Vietnam, the Holocaust, Kosovo and September 11th, Edkins offers a thorough discussion of practices of memory such as memorials, museums, remembrance ceremonies, the diagnosis of post-traumatic stress and the act of bearing witness. She examines the implications of these commemorations in terms of language, political power, sovereignty and nationalism. She argues that some forms of remembering do not ignore the horror of what happened but rather use memory to promote change and to challenge the political systems that produced the violence of wars and genocides in the first place. This wide-ranging study embraces literature, history, politics and international relations, and makes a significant contribution to the study of memory.

    • Timely inclusion of practices of memory in the aftermath of September 11th
    • This book on memory and trauma situates itself in politics and international relations
    • Highly interdisciplinary
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'This is a path-breaking work. It moves the discussion of traumatic memory away from a concentration on paralysis and towards political action. It offers a theoretically sophisticated and powerful reading of the repercussions of traumatic events, as fields of force in which memories of catastrophe are rewritten as forms of resistance. Narratives which encircle terrible events like wars and terrorism can and do challenge political and social conventions in such a way as to create a space in which political commitments can be renegotiated and reconstructed. Essential reading for all students of history and memory.' Jay Winter, Yale University

    'Are you critical of established images of sovereignty but uncertain how they become reproduced so effectively? Then this is the book for you. Jenny Edkins is compelling as she explores intricate dissonances and intersections between linear time, trauma time, memorials, sovereignty, the nation and resistance to the nation. This is an admirable book that will repay close attention.' William E. Connolly, The John Hopkins University and author of Neuropolitics: Thinking, Culture, Speed

    '… a highly persuasive account.' The Times Literary Supplement

    'There is much to admire in this book … Although Edkins is not an anthropologist, her book would make a stimulating contribution to courses on the anthropology of memory at the graduate and undergraduate level.' Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

    'Power seeks to control memory; to keep it in the realm of politics … In Trauma and the Memory of Politics Edkins explores instances when memory has functioned to challenge the politics of the state. Memory can be harnessed as a form of resistance … The second chapter on the London Cenotaph and the Vietnam Wall is, perhaps, the most compelling of these various explorations of the politics of memory … The sections of Kosovo and 09/11 are also noteworthy. In her discussion of Kosovo Edkins argues cogently for reading humanitarianism as complicit with sovereignty rather than posing a challenge to it. In her analysis of the aftermath of 09/11 Edkins suggests that the state ensured that the space of the political was evacuated. One of the remedies for this (a)voiding of the political is to prevent 'trauma time' from fading from view … [the book] forms a valuable addition to an ever growing body of work on the subject of rememberance.' Year's Work in Critical and Cultural Theory

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    Product details

    • Date Published: July 2003
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521534208
    • length: 284 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 15 mm
    • weight: 0.38kg
    • contains: 27 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    List of illustrations
    1. Introduction: trauma, violence and political community
    2. Survivor memories and the diagnosis of trauma: the Great War and Vietnam
    3. War memorials and remembrance: the London Cenotaph and the Vietnam Wall
    4. Concentration camp memorials and museums: Dachau and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum
    5. Testimony and sovereign power after Auschwitz: Holocaust witness and Kosovo refugees
    6. Conclusion: the return of the political - the memory of politics

  • Author

    Jenny Edkins, University of Wales, Aberystwyth
    Jenny Edkins is Senior Lecturer in International Politics at the University of Wales Aberystwyth. Her publications include Whose Hunger? Concepts of Famine, Practices of Aid (2000), Poststructuralism and International Relations: Bringing the Political Back In (1999) and, with Nalini Persram and Veronique Pin-Fat, Sovereignty and Subjectivity (1999).

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