SKC Workshop

Anna Westin

(St. Mary's University and St. Mellitus College, London, UK) 

The last decade has seen a widespread prevalence in the understanding and acceptance of traumatic experience. No longer a matter of niche specialisation, the social awareness of trauma has never been more pronounced.  This is not to say that trauma is something new; the world wars, genocides and civil upheavals of human history have all borne witness to its effect in poetry, historical and medical documentation, theology, and psychoanalysis. Still, there is something different happening now - an awareness, perhaps, of the human being’s general fragility, the personal ability to be affected, violated, by the other, such that the self as the vulnerable self, finds itself the victim of the expression of a general, fractured and violent human condition, revealed in society. 

The contemporary discourse, however, stays relatively silent with regards to personal agency, outside of conversations pertaining to post-traumatic growth. Trauma, understood broadly in this way, seems to exit the strict categories of diagnosis, by becoming a symptom of a general social malaise. To be human in the postmodern condition is, to a certain extent, to be traumatized. In this invocation, the subject has assumed the role of the other, the one who suffers. But this seems to reveal a dichotomy of human experience that bears little resemblance to the vulnerability of suffering that is found in Kierkegaard, where the sufferer exists in vulnerability, yet attuned to the needs of the other and the possibility of the self.