Trauma and Violence
The New Historical Trauma Studies
Digging Through Our Past for Insights Into Today
By Mark S. Micale, PhD |
March 11, 2009
Dr Micale is associate professor in the department of history at the University of Illinois in Urbana. He reports no conflicts of interest concering the subject matter of this article.
If studies about wartime nervous and mental suffering foreshadow our own notion of military PTSD, Cardyn’s research casts forward to current studies about sexual and domestic abuse. Perhaps because readers are prepared for the violence that war entails, Cardyn’s cases, set in the civilian, rural world, are even more chilling than those of shell-shocked soldiers.
Cardyn also noted in her dissertation that pervasively sexualized terrorism was used 150 years ago not as a side effect of other organized mass violence but in a conscious effort to maintain a regime of race, gender, and power. The threat and practice of inflicting sexual trauma became a crucial, time-tested instrument of racial oppression. Cardyn also showed that these activities drew on extensive precedents in the white antebellum South. She pointed out troubling parallels between systematic sexual traumatization in the racialized world of late 19th-century America and in the horrific campaigns of ethnic and religious cleansing in late 20th-century Bosnia.
The individual and collective experience of sexual traumatization was of little interest to people at the time, including the medical profession. One result is rampant omissions in the historical record that scholars today, who are operating under dramatically altered political circumstances, are trying to reconstruct. The full extent of the suffering involved in these historical episodes will almost certainly never be known.
In the first decade of the 21st century, “psychotraumatology” is no longer simply a subspecialty of psychiatry. When researchers in many disciplines (eg, sciences, social sciences, and humanities) converge simultaneously on a new subject, deep metacultural forces are almost certainly at work, regardless of whether these subterranean forces are apparent at the time. Psychological trauma appears to be one of these general cultural forces. In a post-9/11 world, there is little likelihood that interest in the subject will wane in the near future. In humanity’s ongoing attempt to study, process, and master its painful pasts, historians, too, are playing a part.
1.Trimble MR. Post-Traumatic Neurosis: From Railway Spine to the Whiplash. Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons; 1981.
2. Healy D. Images of Trauma: From Hysteria to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Boston: Faber and Faber; 1993.
3. Davy RJ. Samuel Pepys and post-traumatic stress disorder. Br J Psychiatry. 1983;143:64-68.
4. Hudson CJ. The first case of battle hysteria? Br J Psychiatry. 1990;157:150.
5. Vijselaar J, Van der Hart O. The first report of hypnotic treatment of traumatic grief: a brief communication. Int J Clin Exp Hypn. 1992;40:1-6.
6. Parry-Jones B, Parry-Jones WL. Post-traumatic stress disorder: supportive evidence from an eighteenth century natural disaster. Psychol Med. 1994;24:15-27.
7. Leese P. Shell Shock: Traumatic Neurosis and the British Soldiers of the First World War. New York: Palgrave Macmillan; 2002.
8. Lerner P. Hysterical Men, War, Psychiatry, and the Politics of Trauma in Germany, 1890-1930. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press; 2003.
9. Hofer HG. Nervenschwäche und Krieg: Modernitätskritik und Krisenbewältigung in der österreichischen Psychiatrie (1880-1920). Vienna: Böhlau; 2004.
10. Bianchi B. La psychiatrie italienne et la guerre. In: Becker Jean-Jacques et al, eds. Guerre et Cultures, 1914-1918. Paris: Armand Colin; 1994:118-131.
11. Micale MS, Lerner P, eds. Traumatic Pasts: History, Psychiatry, and Trauma in the Modern Age, 1870-1930. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press; 2001.
12.Van der Hart O, Brown P, Graafland M. Trauma-induced dissociative amnesia in World War I combat soldiers. Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 1999;33:37-46.
13. Van der Hart O, Van Dijke A, Van Son M, Steele K. Somatoform dissociation in traumatized World War I combat soldiers: a neglected clinical heritage. J Trauma Dissociation. 2000;1:33-66.
14. Leed EJ. No Man’s Land: Combat & Identity in World War I. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press; 1979.
15. Binneveld H. From Shellshock to Combat Stress: A Comparative History of Military Psychiatry. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press; 1997.
16. Farrell K. Post-Traumatic Culture: Injury and Interpretation in the Nineties. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press; 1998.
17. Raitt S, Tate T, eds. Women’s Fiction and the Great War. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press; 1997.
18. Skidmore JM. The Trauma of Defeat: Ricarda Huch’s Historiography During the Weimar Republic. New York: Peter Lang; 2005.
19. Winter J. Remembering War: The Great War between Memory and History in the Twentieth Century. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press; 2006.
20. Shephard B. A War of Nerves: Soldiers and Psychiatrists in the Twentieth Century. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press; 2001.
21. Pols H. War neurosis, adjustment problems in veterans, and an ill nation: the disciplinary project of American psychiatry during and after World War II. Osiris. 2007;22:72-92.
22. Dean ET Jr. Shook Over Hell: Post-Traumatic Stress, Vietnam, and the Civil War. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press; 1997.
23. Dean ET Jr. “We will all be lost and destroyed”: post-traumatic stress disorder and the Civil War. Civ War Hist. 1991;37:138-153.
24. Anderson DL, Anderson GT. Nostalgia and malingering in the military during the Civil War. Perspect Biol Med. 1984;28:156-166.
25. Talbott JE. Combat trauma in the American Civil War. Hist Today. 1996;46:41-47.
26. Talbott JE. Soldiers, psychiatrists, and combat trauma. J Interdiscip Hist. 1997;27:437-454.
27. Herschbach L. Fragmentation and Reunion: Medicine, the Body, and the American Civil War [dissertation]. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press; 1996.
28. Micale MS. Hysterical Men: The Hidden History of Male Nervous Illness. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press; 2008.
29. Micale MS. Medical and literary discourses of trauma in the age of the American Civil War. In: Stiles A, ed. Neurology and Literature, 1860-1920. New York: Palgrave Macmillan; 2007:187-188.
30. Brunnert K. Nostalgie in der Geschichte der Medizin. Düsseldorf, Germany: Triltsch; 1984.
31. Cardyn L. The construction of female sexual trauma in turn-of-the-century American mental medicine. In: Micale MS, Lerner P, eds. Traumatic Pasts: History, Psychiatry, and Trauma in the Modern Age, 1870-1930 Traumatic Pasts. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press; 2001.
32. Cardyn L. Sexual terror in the Reconstruction South. In: Clinton C, Silber N, eds. Battle Scars: Gender and Sexuality in the American Civil War. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press; 2006.
33. Cardyn L. Sexualized racism/gendered violence: outraging the body politic in the Reconstruction South. Mich Law Rev. 2002;100:675-867.
34. Cardyn L. Sexualized Racism/Gendered Violence: Trauma and the Body Politic in the Reconstruction South [dissertation]. New Haven, CT: Yale University; 2003.