Mourning and Witness after Collective Trauma

  • Mary Watkins
  • Helene Shulman
Part of the Critical Theory and Practice in Psychology and the Human Sciences book series (CTPPHS)


Each historical community holds what Eviatar Zerubavel (2003) calls a “time-map,” a social construction marking what is seen as important for that community. Not everything that happens is remembered. Some events fall into oblivion, while others are stressed in official histories. Those who have been marginalized and oppressed by dominant hierarchies often find that the issues they need to explore about the past are nowhere represented in official histories and when spoken about cannot be heard by those from the dominant culture. As transnational migration is affecting enormous numbers of people today, many of us carry multiple time maps and discourses, and need social spaces in which to negotiate complex identities that are both emergent and hybrid. In this chapter, we are addressing the wounds of victims of collective trauma, and the way victims maintain collective memories of the past that either enable or disallow various types of knowing, identity, and dialogue. We are attempting in this chapter to link the literature on fatalism in Latin America and colonialism in Africa with the literature on trauma that has developed largely in European and American contexts. The former has tended to focus on collective wounds, that is, trauma shared by a group, while much of the American and European literature on trauma has tended to focus on individual and familial abuse. We believe that by bringing these theoretical perspectives together, both psychological and sociological effects can be seen more clearly in their interrelationships.


Traumatic Event Iconic Memory Traumatic Past Official History Military Dictatorship 
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Copyright information

© Mary Watkins and Helene Shulman 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mary Watkins
  • Helene Shulman

There are no affiliations available

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