The Empire of Trauma: An Inquiry into the Condition of Victimhood 1st Edition

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ISBN-13: 978-0691137537
ISBN-10: 0691137536
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Paperback, July 26, 2009
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Editorial Reviews


Winner of the 2010 William A. Douglass Prize for Best Book in Europeanist Anthropology, Society for the Anthropology of Europe/American Anthropological Association

"A model contribution to this collective effort at understanding and mitigating the world's misery. . . . [This] calm and mighty book is no less than a staccato history of military and civilian suffering since 1914. . . . Splendid."--Fred Inglis, Times Higher Education

"A must read for those interested in trauma, this book looks at the ubiquity of trauma and the development of a new vocabulary and discourse of traumatic events."--A.N. Douglas, Choice

"[A]s Didier Fassin and Richard Rechtman elegantly describe in their new book, . . . what has happened is nothing less than a fundamental change in what it means to be 'traumatised'. . . . [M]ental health professionals never seem far away from either challenge or crisis, which is why the work is so demanding but also stimulating and never dull. Much the same is true of Empire of Trauma."--Simon Wessely, British Medical Journal

"A model of social inquiry, The Empire of Trauma is a major contribution not only to our understanding of trauma and the nature of victimhood but to our purchase on the times in which we live."--Joseph E. Davis, Canadian Journal of Sociology

"This is an unusual book for the psychiatric bookshelf, because the authors seek to stand free of the scientific facts altogether and to ask simply what impact the emergence of the trauma narrative has had upon the world. This, they argue, is the anthropological stance: to ask how ideas emerge in a society and come to be seen as true, and what follows from that truth, without asking whether those ideas are in fact true. Because of this stance, the book will be read as provocative; but it should be read, because the authors have something to say."--Tanya M. Luhrmann, American Journal of Psychiatry

"The Empire of Trauma: An Inquiry into the Condition of Victimhood makes a signal contribution to the genre of 'the history of the present'. . . . The detail and finesse with which theory and data are woven together for each case makes this book compelling. . . . [I]ndeed, a splendid achievement."--Veena Das, American Journal of Sociology

"[T]his book presents a well-reasoned discourse on the concepts of trauma, trauma-related disorders, treatment and their relationships to social, political and economic considerations. It will appeal to scholars in a number of disciplines including anthropology, psychiatry, psychology, history and sociology."--Shameran Slewa-Younan, Metascience

From the Back Cover

"An enormous achievement. The Empire of Trauma offers not only an understanding of the anthropology of the concept of trauma in general, but also a very interesting discussion of the development of values and value systems in our globalized world. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time on the issue of trauma."--David Becker, Free University Berlin

"The Empire of Trauma is a nuanced study of the complex and contradictory histories of practices and debates within psychiatry, military medicine, psychoanalysis, political activism, and international humanitarianism. It is a much-needed reflection on the overwhelming hegemony of discourses of trauma and reparation, one that does not dismiss the reality of the experience, but instead aims at clearing a space where the painful utterance may reclaim its evocative force and its effectiveness, and may be heard once again."--Stefania Pandolfo, University of California, Berkeley


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; 1 edition (July 26, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691137536
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691137537
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #545,140 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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6 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Jacqueline M Mraz on March 9, 2013
Format: Paperback
When I studied anthropology at the University of Chicago, there was a lot of distrust among the faculty for the work of Michel Foucault. Jean Comaroff, for one, recommended that I read a certain work because it was an "English reading of Foucault."

I had to tell her that an English reading of Foucault did not, in fact, exist. Why? At that time, a good English translation of Foucault or, in fact, even a good translation of a French scholar who worked in a Foucaultian vein, did not exist. Thus, there was no "English reading of Foucault" to be had. Now there is. Now there is The Empire of Trauma. I hope that Jean will take note.

At the University of Chicago, even the great historical anthropologist Marshall Sahlins, who historicized Levi-Strauss, had contempt for Foucault. See, for example, Sahlins' "Waiting for Foucault," the title being a take off on Samuel Becket's "Waiting for Godot."

Why was Sahlins contemptuous of Foucault? Perhaps because Sahlins, despite his disavowal of historical materialist methodology--see, for example, his reading of Mintz in "The Sadness of Sweetness"--still employs methods that can be likened to dialectics. After all, like Levi-Strauss, Sahlins is a fan of dualisms.

Foucault said of Marxism/dialectics that it/they can only breathe in the nineteenth century. Elsewhere, it/they is/are a fish out of water. We need to read Sahlins and his conceptual arsenal in this light. This book, The Empire of Trauma, is a good start.

What of work in the social sciences in the United States that did not/does not have contempt for Foucault?

There is a whole industry of work on "governmentality" based on Foucault's later lectures at the College de France in the United States.
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