Trauma and the Woman of Color in Narratives of Violence

full name / name of organization: 
Southeastern Women's Studies Association
contact email: 

Women's roles are historically remembered as primarily passive on both sides of "the color line": while White women's bodies have historically been protected and defended, women of color have been raped, beaten, mutilated, or ignored. These dual constructions, while often accurate and productive for highlighting the gendered and sexualized violence inflicted upon the bodies of women of color, leave a yawning void in both our understanding of minority communities' resistance to national, racialized forms of terrorism, and our cultural memory of white women's role in the public domain and their engagement in "the race question."

This panel calls for interdisciplinary investigations of trauma and the woman/girl of color in narratives of violence and their consequences. This panel considers the violence of displacement and dispossession due to social conflicts, climate change, natural disasters, civil wars, ethnic clashes, or economic needs that are accompanied by the processes of acculturation and experiences of identity loss, marginalization, disempowerment, and discrimination. Traumatic events leave marks on female bodies and undoubtedly affect the health (mental and physical) of the population.

How should we approach and teach representations of trauma? How does violence mark the bodies and psyches of women of color? How do narratives by women of color attempt to work through catastrophic loss and dispossession?

Papers should discuss not only how this female body is framed, but also how women of color (and their allies) have sought to write/rite themselves back into these social discourses on their terms.

Suggested topics to explore include, but are not limited to:
• Trauma Studies and contemporary women's writing
• Trauma in the writings of Women of Color
• Trauma and patriarchal cultures
• The representation of rape and sexual violence
• Motherhood as trauma
• Lynching
• The Scarred or Marked Body
• Women's experience of war
• Writing as 'self-healing'
• The power of 'herstories'
• Testimony and Literature
• Beyond 'herstory'? Transgendered trauma narratives

Following the 'ethical turn' in criticism of the 1980s, trauma studies emerged in the United States in the 1990s as an important critical trend; according to Roger Luckhurst, this was the period 'when various lines of inquiry converged to make trauma a privileged critical category' (2006: 497). Psychiatrists and psychologists started to study the psychological aspect of trauma in communities that had been affected by the Holocaust, the Vietnam War and the Gulf War. Then, study was extended to all communities that had suffered some kind of systematic abuse. The importance of trauma theory in literary studies has increased year on year with literary works seen as a site for the expression and working through of trauma. In this context, a plethora of trauma narratives by representatives of previously neglected social groups have come to the fore.

For individual submissions, please submit a paper abstract (250 words maximum), as a Word attachment. For all submissions, please include a note indicating if audiovisual equipment is required.

Send submissions to:
Abstract Deadline: November 1, 2011, by midnight.
Conference will be held on March 24-26, 2011 at The Women's Studies Institute, Georgia State University