Structural Trauma

Meridians: Feminism, Race, Transnationalism 20 (2):Volume 22, no.2 (forthcoming)
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This paper addresses the phenomenological experience of precarity and vulnerability in racialized gender-based violence from a structural perspective. Informed by Indigenous social theory and anti-colonial approaches to intergenerational trauma that link settler colonial violence to the modalities of stress-inducing social, institutional, and cultural violences in marginalized women’s lives, I argue that philosophical failures to understand trauma as a functional, organizational tool of settler colonial violence amplify the impact of traumatic experience on specific populations. It is trauma by design. I explore this through the history of the concept of trauma and its connection to tragedy. I give a brief overview of prominent theories of trauma and contrast these with the work of Indigenous feminist scholar Dian Million (2013), who highlights functional complicity of settler colonial institutions in shaping accounts of trauma in the west. I begin the piece with an important illustration of the kinds of lives and experiences that call for a politicized understanding of trauma in anti-colonial feminist theory. I end by offering an expansive notion of structural trauma that is a methodological pivot for conducting trauma-based gender-based violence research in a decolonial context, which calls for an end to narratives of trauma that are severed from the settler colonial project of Native land dispossession and genocide.
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