The Ethics of Trauma: Moral Injury, Combat, and U.S. Empire

Thursday, November 12

Time: 12:30pm

Location: The Hagop Kevorkian Center, 255 Sullivan Street

Nadia Abu El-Haj, Professor of Anthropology & Co-Director of the Center for Palestine Studies, Columbia University

In their book The Empire of Trauma, Didier Fassin and Richard Rechtman ask, "[W]hen we consider the soldier suffering from nightmares and flashbacks as psychologically wounded rather than as a malingerer or a hero, what does this view of war and those who participate in it tell us," (2009: 8)?

Taking inspiration from their question, Nadia Abu El-Haj considers the political and ethical consequences of shifting understandings of the trauma of soldiers for how an American public might come to know and understand U.S. wars-past and present. She recuperates a different reading of the emergence of PTSD in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, exploring an understanding of (soldier) trauma that, she argues, preceded trauma's equation with victimhood. She then turns to the post-9/11 wars and examine the ways in which the trauma of (U.S.) soldiers has come to be understood and that "we" as "American civilians" are called upon to recognize and bear responsibility for the psychological suffering of those sent off to war in "our name."

This event is sponsored by the Center for Palestine Studies at Columbia University.