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Trauma as a Crisis of Relationality: Beyond the Nature-Culture Divide

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Organizer: Renée Ragin Randall

Co-Organizer: Deniz Gündoğan İbrişim

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In the field of literary trauma and memory studies, the kind of trauma usually discussed has to do with violence perpetrated by humans on other humans. Concepts such as environmental and ecological trauma are often relegated to other disciplines or the nebulous category of “the environmental humanities,” siloing the study of trauma in our worlds. In this seminar, we find that integrating the two is integral for the field of trauma studies to be more complete. Ecology, at its core, simply means the interactions between living organisms (human, animal and plant) and their environments–and each other. What happens to humans (or what humans do) in moments of trauma is intimately connected to what happens to the other entities to which they are connected in their ecological habitus.

Rather than silence these connections we wish to make them more visible, expanding our understanding of trauma to a systems-level perspective. Our belief in the importance of this move is supported by our understanding of trauma as a “crisis of relationality,” one in which relations are not narrowly defined as only between humans, but within and across entire systems of life—and even spiritual worlds. As Astrid Erll argues, proliferating research on cultural trauma across diverse disciplines has contributed to a more general understanding of what this she describes as "ecologies of trauma": the insight that traumata—from the individual trauma addressed by psychotherapists to the so-called collective trauma studied by sociologists—are experienced, felt, perceived, understood, negotiated, and healed within sociocultural, spatiotemporal, and more significantly within human-nonhuman contexts (2020). Accordingly, this seminar is interested in submissions that reposition these relationships, moving land, animals, plant life, spirit life and even inanimate objects into the field of vision when we think of traumatic impact.

We invite proposals that engage with global (world) texts and visual and performing arts with a particular focus on trauma as a dispersive state inclusive of nonhuman substances, forces, and spiritual beings.

Potential topics include, but are not limited to:

Traumatic interactions across species, environments, material structures, and psychological states; human and nonhuman responses to trauma
 Inanimate trauma, including ‘memory objects’ and ‘trauma objects’ 
The vibrant ecologies of cultural and literary trauma; thinking with the body, thinking with the land, thinking with the sea; thinking with the sprit
Sensorial perspectives on trauma; non-occulocentric  forms
More-than-human conceptions of embodiment, agency, and care in trauma representations
Multiperspectival trauma  and the logic of relationality


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