“Researching and Documenting ‘Trauma’ in History and Testimony”

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Date(s) - 09/06/2014 - 10/06/2014
All Day


This research symposium will bring together a select group of established and emerging scholars from multiple disciplines who are examining questions pertaining to histories, theories, and documentations of trauma from transnational and transhistorical perspectives.  The event is a closed academic event but there will be a public lecture associated with the symposium on Thursday June 12th at the State Library of Victoria.
Rwanda Trauma
The current interest in trauma and traumatic memories is the starting point for the symposium. Oral and video testimonies of social suffering, military conflicts, and other forms of trauma are flourishing, as is critical, academic engagement with them. Alongside the contemporary recording and analysis of traumatic memories, scholars are reinterpreting archival and historical sources through the lens of emotion andtrauma.  The expansion of these research areas has facilitated an interdisciplinary dialogue between the humanities, social sciences, psychology and psychoanalysis and history.  While this has been a fruitful and productive discussion, it perhaps poses more questions than it answers.

This symposium will bring together scholars and archivists within and outside of Australia to share research that examines if “trauma” provides an appropriate framework for examining communal and individual suffering, and if it is relevant and ethical to use trauma paradigms beyond Western contexts or from presentist perspectives.  Ultimately, the symposium aims to historicise and problematise the notion of “trauma” in historical research.

Each participant will present a fifteen minute summary of her or his paper, with a thirty minute group discussion to follow. Papers will be distributed to participants approximately one month in advance of the event to enhance in-depth analysis and debate.  Following the symposium, we will work on having papers published in a special issue of a top-ranked peer reviewed journal.

The event is hosted by the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation (ACJC) through the Benjamin Slome Research Endowment (http://artsonline.monash.edu.au/acjc/) and the History Program (http://artsonline.monash.edu.au/history-studies/) with additional support from the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions (http://www.historyofemotions.org.au/).


  • Cathy Caruth (Cornell)
  • Megan Cassidy-Welch (Monash)
  • Felicity Collins (La Trobe)
  • Carolyn Dean (Yale)
  • Sean Field (Cape Town)
  • Dolly MacKinnon (Queensland)
  • Kate McGregor (Melbourne)
  • Susannah Radstone (South Australia)
  • Noah Shenker (Monash)
  • Taylor Spence (Monash)
  • Alistair Thomson (Monash)
  • Christina Twomey (Monash)