Trauma, Narratives, Institutions: Transdisciplinary Dialogues

deadline for submissions: 
July 22, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Johns Hopkins University, Center for Medical Humanities and Social Medicine
contact email: 

It is a pleasure to invite submissions for our conference, titled Trauma, Narratives, Institutions: transdisciplinary dialogues, organized by the Center for Medical Humanities and Social Medicine on November 15-16, 2019.

In the light of the ongoing global forced migration, socio-political negotiations of gender and trauma, and persistent urban inequalities worldwide the concept of trauma bears transdisciplinary interest and impact. Trauma’s theorizations, for example Freud’s notion of hysteria, the Great War epidemic of shell shock, the Holocaust survivor’s syndrome, and Cesaire’s argumentation on postcolonial, racialized trauma, reinforced or deconstructed institutional narratives of medical, legal, psychoanalytical, sociological, and political nature. Even though institutional presence, and the narratives it engenders, bears unambiguous influence on the traumatized individuals and collectives, this presence is insidious in its workings. If, as Michael Rothberg poignantly writes, “trauma implies some ‘other’ mode of living on,” it is worth examining the ways through which institutional practices, theories, and narratives support, enable, or challenge the “living on” of the traumatized.

By the beginning of the twenty-first century, the concept of trauma was already referred to as “debased currency” by Ruth Leys, on the basis of how often, differently, and in some cases arbitrarily the term was used. Almost twenty years later, trauma studies as a field is somewhat polarized. Cathy Caruth’s largely dominant humanities view on the difficulty to narrate trauma has been challenged by a number of critics. These critics argue that the apparent narrative fragmentation of trauma and the western-centric approach of the majority of trauma theories blur the roles of victim and perpetrator. At the same time, Bessel Van der Kolk’s recent psychiatric argument that traumatic experience leaves an imprint on the brain’s memory system that defies all potential for representation has also divided the interdisciplinary field of trauma studies.

Following this, socio-historical, anthropological, and cultural theorizations of institutional roles and narratives are complicated, and important questions arise: How are institutions positioned to manage psychic and bodily trauma and how does trauma manifest and develop under institutional narratives of power? What are the experiences of trauma that are caused, for example, by living under racist rhetoric and structures? How is the experience of trauma changed when it is enacted by social institutions, and when it has institutional power behind it? And, importantly, what kind of a narrative is trauma itself, and how does it shape the content and methodology of different disciplines?

We invite participants from all disciplinarian backgrounds to present relevant research in 20-minute-long presentations. Please submit your proposals of up to 300 words to by July 22, 2019.

Link to cfp:

Important Dates

Deadline for submission: July 22 2019
Notification of acceptance: August 5 2019
Deadline for final paper submission: November 10 2019