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Trauma: A Social Theory

Trauma: A Social Theory American Sociological Association 2014 DOI: 10.1177/0094306114539453 http://cs.sagepub.com BRIEFLY NOTED Trauma: A Social Theory,by Jeffrey C. attribution. This attribution may be made Alexander. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2012. in real time, as an event unfolds; it may 232pp. $22.95 paper. ISBN: 9780745649122. also be made before the event occurs, as an adumbration, or after the event has conclud- Trauma is the second of three recent volumes ed, as a post-hoc reconstruction’’ (p. 13). He Polity has issued containing previously pub- then refers to Benedict Anderson’s celebrated lished essays by Jeffrey Alexander that bear idea of ‘‘imagined communities,’’ positioning on cohesive topics, giving readers conve- and distancing himself in relation to that nient access to material already well known notion, since he regards Anderson as having in view of the author’s authority in cultural been mainly interested in ideological repre- sociology and social theory. This overall pro- sentations concocted to suit nationalistic ject regarding ‘‘cultural trauma,’’ according interests. In response to ‘‘the constructivist position’’ common to collective trauma anal- to Alexander, was begun with a set of nota- ysis, he says ‘‘We are concerned only with ble colleagues at the Center for Advanced how and under what conditions the claims Study at Stanford more than fifteen are made, and with what results. It is neither years ago, and found its first book-length ontology nor morality, but epistemology, expression in 2004 (Cultural Theory and Col- lective Identity by Alexander, Ron Eyerman, with which we are concerned’’ (p. 14). Bernard Giesen, Neil Smelser, and Piotr He then proposes a schematic with which Sztompka)—which also provides the first a researcher could interpret cultural traumas chapter of the present compilation. The sec- no matter where they occur historically or ond of six chapters deals with the Holocaust geographically. This is made up of ‘‘carrier (previously published in a 2009 book edited groups’’ and ‘‘audience and situation,’’ plus by Alexander), while the third, once again master narratives of the event that turn on concerning the Holocaust, comes from ‘‘the nature of the pain,’’ ‘‘the nature of the a 2011 book edited by his colleague, Ron victim,’’ ‘‘relation of the trauma victim to Eyerman, to whom the present collection is the wider audience, ‘‘ and ‘‘attribution of dedicated. The fourth chapter, about the bar- responsibility’’ (pp. 14-19). Such an approach barities committed by the Japanese military will likely be useful for students of contem- on the Chinese city of Nanking, was pub- porary collective trauma, as defined in these lished in a Yale-related conference volume, linked essays, of which there seem to be an whereas the fifth chapter comes from ever-growing supply on which to try it out. a 2009 book edited by S. Koniordos, and the final one originated in a 2007 collection Disabled Children’s Childhood Studies: Critical concerning globalization edited by I. Rossi. Approaches in a Global Context, edited by Thus, all of these pieces were recent addi- Tillie Curran and Katherine Runswick- tions to Alexander’s large canon. Cole. Hampshire, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, The point of these essays is clearly 2013. 204pp. $85.00 cloth. ISBN: 978113700 explained in the first one, reissued from the 2004 volume mentioned above. Here Alex- ander distinguishes ordinary conceptions of collective trauma from the type he prefers. Disabled Children’s Childhood Studies centers He differentiates ‘‘lay,’’ ‘‘Enlightenment,’’ on the experiences of children with disabil- and psychoanalytic theories of trauma anal- ities and the families who raise these chil- ysis by reference to ‘‘the naturalistic fallacy’’: dren. The book, edited by Tillie Curran and ‘‘First and foremost, I maintain that events Katherine Runswick-Cole, is divided into do not, in and of themselves, create collec- three parts. Part I, ‘‘Voices for Creative The- tive trauma. Events are not inherently trau- ory, Policy and Practice,’’ is comprised of matic. Trauma is a socially mediated firsthand accounts from children and adults Contemporary Sociology 43, 4 592 http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Contemporary Sociology: A Journal of Reviews SAGE

Trauma: A Social Theory

Contemporary Sociology: A Journal of Reviews , Volume 43 (4): 1 – Jul 1, 2014

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Publisher
SAGE
Copyright
© American Sociological Association 2014
ISSN
0094-3061
eISSN
1939-8638
DOI
10.1177/0094306114539453
Publisher site
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Abstract

American Sociological Association 2014 DOI: 10.1177/0094306114539453 http://cs.sagepub.com BRIEFLY NOTED Trauma: A Social Theory,by Jeffrey C. attribution. This attribution may be made Alexander. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2012. in real time, as an event unfolds; it may 232pp. $22.95 paper. ISBN: 9780745649122. also be made before the event occurs, as an adumbration, or after the event has conclud- Trauma is the second of three recent volumes ed, as a post-hoc reconstruction’’ (p. 13). He Polity has issued containing previously pub- then refers to Benedict Anderson’s celebrated lished essays by Jeffrey Alexander that bear idea of ‘‘imagined communities,’’ positioning on cohesive topics, giving readers conve- and distancing himself in relation to that nient access to material already well known notion, since he regards Anderson as having in view of the author’s authority in cultural been mainly interested in ideological repre- sociology and social theory. This overall pro- sentations concocted to suit nationalistic ject regarding ‘‘cultural trauma,’’ according interests. In response to ‘‘the constructivist position’’ common to collective trauma anal- to Alexander, was begun with a set of nota- ysis, he says ‘‘We are concerned only with ble colleagues at the Center for Advanced how and under what conditions the claims Study at Stanford more than fifteen are made, and with what results. It is neither years ago, and found its first book-length ontology nor morality, but epistemology, expression in 2004 (Cultural Theory and Col- lective Identity by Alexander, Ron Eyerman, with which we are concerned’’ (p. 14). Bernard Giesen, Neil Smelser, and Piotr He then proposes a schematic with which Sztompka)—which also provides the first a researcher could interpret cultural traumas chapter of the present compilation. The sec- no matter where they occur historically or ond of six chapters deals with the Holocaust geographically. This is made up of ‘‘carrier (previously published in a 2009 book edited groups’’ and ‘‘audience and situation,’’ plus by Alexander), while the third, once again master narratives of the event that turn on concerning the Holocaust, comes from ‘‘the nature of the pain,’’ ‘‘the nature of the a 2011 book edited by his colleague, Ron victim,’’ ‘‘relation of the trauma victim to Eyerman, to whom the present collection is the wider audience, ‘‘ and ‘‘attribution of dedicated. The fourth chapter, about the bar- responsibility’’ (pp. 14-19). Such an approach barities committed by the Japanese military will likely be useful for students of contem- on the Chinese city of Nanking, was pub- porary collective trauma, as defined in these lished in a Yale-related conference volume, linked essays, of which there seem to be an whereas the fifth chapter comes from ever-growing supply on which to try it out. a 2009 book edited by S. Koniordos, and the final one originated in a 2007 collection Disabled Children’s Childhood Studies: Critical concerning globalization edited by I. Rossi. Approaches in a Global Context, edited by Thus, all of these pieces were recent addi- Tillie Curran and Katherine Runswick- tions to Alexander’s large canon. Cole. Hampshire, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, The point of these essays is clearly 2013. 204pp. $85.00 cloth. ISBN: 978113700 explained in the first one, reissued from the 2004 volume mentioned above. Here Alex- ander distinguishes ordinary conceptions of collective trauma from the type he prefers. Disabled Children’s Childhood Studies centers He differentiates ‘‘lay,’’ ‘‘Enlightenment,’’ on the experiences of children with disabil- and psychoanalytic theories of trauma anal- ities and the families who raise these chil- ysis by reference to ‘‘the naturalistic fallacy’’: dren. The book, edited by Tillie Curran and ‘‘First and foremost, I maintain that events Katherine Runswick-Cole, is divided into do not, in and of themselves, create collec- three parts. Part I, ‘‘Voices for Creative The- tive trauma. Events are not inherently trau- ory, Policy and Practice,’’ is comprised of matic. Trauma is a socially mediated firsthand accounts from children and adults Contemporary Sociology 43, 4 592

Journal

Contemporary Sociology: A Journal of ReviewsSAGE

Published: Jul 1, 2014

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