Trauma : A Social Theory

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In this book Jeffrey C. Alexander develops an original social theory of trauma and uses it to carry out a series of empirical investigations into social suffering around the globe. Alexander argues that traumas are not merely psychological but collective experiences, and that trauma work plays a key role in defining the origins and outcomes of critical social conflicts. He outlines a model of trauma work that relates interests of carrier groups, competing narrative identifications of victim and perpetrator, utopian and dystopian proposals for trauma resolution, the performative power of constructed events, and the distribution of organizational resources. Alexander explores these processes in richly textured case studies of cultural-trauma origins and effects, from the universalism of the Holocaust to the particularism of the Israeli right, from postcolonial battles over the Partition of India and Pakistan to the invisibility of the Rape of Nanjing in Maoist China. In a particularly controversial chapter, Alexander describes the idealizing discourse of globalization as a trauma-response to the Cold War. Contemporary societies have often been described as more concerned with the past than the future, more with tragedy than progress. In Trauma: A Social Theory, Alexander explains why.
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Product details

  • Electronic book text | 240 pages
  • John Wiley and Sons Ltd
  • Polity Press
  • United Kingdom
  • 074566136X
  • 9780745661360

About Jeffrey C. Alexander

Jeffrey C. Alexander is the Lillian Chavenson Saden Professor of Sociology and a Director of the Center for Cultural Sociology at Yale University.
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Review quote

'Reminds the readers that working through trauma is not merely a matter of resurrecting "burried memories" but creating new ones. In this way, Alexander usefully beckons towards a future of "cosmopolitan peace." It is a dream worth returning to in the 21st century.'Times Higher Education'A masterpiece of cultural explanation. Alexander powerfully documents the complex effects of trauma and blame in conflicts among groups, in a book that is both readable and fascinating.'James M. Jasper, CUNY Graduate Center "Exemplary work in illustrating the processes that underlie trauma narrative creation."Political Studies Review'Combining theoretical astuteness and empirical sensitivity, Alexander's book is a hugely significant contribution to the understanding of collective trauma, suffering, and memory. It opens up a wealth of new vistas for both cultural sociology and social theory more generally.'David Inglis, University of Aberdeen 'Already established as a leading scholar of cultural trauma and collective memory, Jeffrey Alexander solidifies his position in this new book. He deepens our theoretical understanding of trauma, expands its relevance through novel comparative analysis, and improves our grasp of its ingredients. I always grade a book on how much it makes me think about new things, and on this count Alexander wins first prize.'Neil Smelser, University of California, Berkeley
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Table of contents

Preface and AcknowledgementsIntroductionChapter 1. Cultural Trauma: A Social TheoryChapter 2. Holocaust and Trauma: Moral Universalism in the WestChapter 3. Holocaust and Trauma: Moral Restriction in Israel (with Shai Dromi)Chapter 4. Massacre and Trauma: Nanjing and the Silence of Maoism (with Rui Gao)Chapter 5. Partition and Trauma: Repairing India and PakistanChapter 6. Globalization and Trauma: The Dream of Cosmopolitan PeaceBibliographyNotes
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