Constructing Trauma and Its Treatment: Knowledge, Power and Resistance

  • Constanze Quosh
  • Kenneth J. Gergen


As the concept of mental illness has become more widely accepted, there has been a concomitant increase in the dependency of people on mental health professionals. The result has been twofold: first, an increase in the conceptual repertoire by which people can be classified as ill, and second, an increased dependency on psychopharmacological “cures.” This chapter first is focally concerned with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), an increasingly common “illness” in society. We trace the historical development of the concept of trauma and its realization as an illness category. We explore the power of the mental health professions and pharmaceutical research in disseminating news on the disorder and concretizing its existence. This is contrasted by forms of resistance to the dominant discourse, particularly among those who subscribe to constructionist theory, which enables people to confront otherwise stressful conditions without traditional treatment or drugs. Yet, despite critics of the trauma concept, we explore the possibility that the label fulfills important political and social functions. Its abandonment should possibly await effective alternatives to the present definition. As we shall see, there are perspectives that provide holistic as well as context specific ways of dealing with crisis and trauma.


Mental Health Asylum Seeker Ptsd Diagnosis Vietnam Veteran Khmer Rouge 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Constanze Quosh
    • 1
  • Kenneth J. Gergen
    • 2
  1. 1.IFSH—Institute for Peace Research and Security PolicyUniversity HamburgHamburgGermany
  2. 2.500 College AvenueSwarthmoreUSA

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