Trauma theory and postcolonial literary studies

Visser, I., 2011, In : Journal of Postcolonial Writing. 47, 3, July, p. 270 - 282 13 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract The plurality and growing number of responses to cultural trauma theory in postcolonial criticism demonstrate the ongoing appeal of trauma theory despite the fact that it is also increasingly critiqued as inadequate to the research agenda of postcolonial studies. In the dialogue between trauma theory and postcolonial literary studies the central question remains whether trauma theory can be effectively “postcolonialized” in the sense of being usefully conjoined with postcolonial theory. This article presents a detailed account of the core concepts and tenets of cultural trauma theory in order to contribute to a clearer understanding of the issues currently at stake in this developing relationship between trauma theory and postcolonial literary studies. It engages with fundamental issues, such as those deriving from trauma theory's foundation in Freudian psychoanalysis; its Eurocentric orientation; its inherent contradictions, such as its deconstructionist aesthetics of aporia vs notions of therapeutic and recuperative narrativization; and its tendency to blur lines of distinction and to affirm stasis and melancholia as the empathic, responsible reception of trauma narratives. This article argues for a more precise, as well as more comprehensive, conceptualization of trauma and formulates possible directions in which to expand trauma's conceptual framework, in order to respond more adequately to postcolonial ways of understanding history, memory and trauma. Author Posting. (c) 'Copyright Holder', 2011. This is the author's version of the work. It is posted here by permission of 'Copyright Holder' for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Journal of Postcolonial Writing, Volume 47 Issue 3, July 2011. doi:10.1080/17449855.2011.569378 (
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)270 - 282
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Postcolonial Writing
Issue number3, July
Publication statusPublished - 2011

ID: 2049615