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Wounded Worlds: Trauma and Melancholia in the Anthropocene

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Organizer: Natalie Lozinski-Veach

Co-Organizer: Stefanie Sevcik

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Marked by impossible mourning and endless (eco)melancholia, the affective landscapes of the Anthropocene are not so much punctuated by trauma as constituted by it. At the same time, the traditional, event-based models of trauma theory no longer suffice to address the ongoing, almost imperceptible processes of ecological devastation, mass extinction, and climate change. While the sudden shock that constitutes trauma in Freud’s framework remains relevant for theorizing some aspects of experience in the Anthropocene, such as extreme weather events, the “slow violence” (Nixon 2011) of others, like disease caused by environmental pollution and the forced migrations of refugees driven by neoliberalism, demands new ways to think through trauma.
Recent work in trauma studies has begun to acknowledge these shifts: Michael Rothberg addresses the collective Western responsibility for climate change by complicating the roles of victim and perpetrator with his notion of “implicated subjects” (2013), while E. Ann Kaplan has proposed the concept of “pretraumatic stress syndrome” to describe how cultural representations of climate catastrophe anticipate and generate trauma (2015).
Beyond theory, activists and grassroots organizations around the globe have long taken these ecological acts of violence as the starting point for their work. In Kenya, the Green Belt Movement was founded in 1977 to respond to the needs of rural women whose lives were increasingly impacted by food scarcity. More recently, both theorists and activists have identified links between the effects of climate change on water supplies and the protracted civil wars in Yemen and Syria.
In this seminar, we will explore how these and other approaches can provide us with critical tools to reconceptualize trauma in the Anthropocene as well as ways of working through collective ecomelancholia and its global impact. 
Possible topics include:
- The relationship between the disjointed temporalities of trauma and the Anthropocene
- Trauma in deep time 
- Futurities and the latency of trauma 
- Anthropocene traumata in world art and literature 
- The lingering effects of colonialism across the Global South and the “slow violence” of environmental degradation
- The disproportionate effects of climate change on Global South communities
- Links between social justice movements, environmental justice, and gender activism 
- Theoretical and activist approaches to ecomelancholia
- Nonanthropocentric trauma: animal suffering and the more-than-human environment
- Reconsiderations of more traditional topics of trauma studies, such as the Shoah, in relation to the challenges of the Anthropocene
We welcome papers that consider these questions through different disciplinary lenses, such as critical theory, literary analysis, film studies, gender studies, indigenous studies, social justice studies, and global area studies.

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