Women of Color and Trauma in Narratives of Violence

full name / name of organization: 
Southeastern Women's Studies Association
contact email: 
patricia.hopkins@cnu.edu

Voices are central to the treatment of trauma, and it is this centrality that makes the connection between trauma and literature so rich. The narrative voice provides the victim a way to process and order the experience, and it is through this voice that those who hear it come into community with that person. Through this community, the number of those who bear witness multiplies, as does the number of those who are primary and secondary survivors. Literature engages with these voices in many ways: perhaps a character experiences trauma and the reader witnesses it; perhaps an author draws from his or her own experience to create a fictionalized representation of it, thereby working through personal own trauma; or perhaps the structure of the text itself reflects the narrative patterns of the traumatized voice. In any of these situations, and in others that are not named here, the reader becomes drawn into the trauma through the narrative voice, or perhaps even the strategic absence of that voice. Papers are sought that investigate the multiple facets of this topic.

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.

• Trauma Studies and the female body in Narratives of violence
• Trauma Studies and contemporary women’s writing
• Women writers in relation to Trauma Studies
• Trauma in writings by 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
• 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: patricia.hopkins@cnu.edu
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

cfp categories: 
african-american
american
childrens_literature
classical_studies
cultural_studies_and_historical_approaches
ethnicity_and_national_identity
film_and_television
gender_studies_and_sexuality
humanities_computing_and_the_internet
interdisciplinary
popular_culture
professional_topics
religion
rhetoric_and_composition
science_and_culture
theatre
twentieth_century_and_beyond