Trauma as a Category of Historical Analysis in the Creation of American Histories (Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies (Special Issue, Fall/Winter 2017)

In this essay I postulate trauma as a new category of historical analysis and explores its potential benefit to the creation of American histories.  I argue that European-based conceptions of trauma, post-traumatic repetition compulsion, and healing are potentially useful concepts for American histories, and indeed might comprise a new analytic on the level of race, class, and gender.  However, I argue that trauma and healing will require significant modification because they emerged in the twentieth century freighted with a consensus-vision of the political community that is incommensurate with the political dynamics of settler colonialism and its legacies in North America. This consensus vision did not and still does not take into account the unfinished reality of North American settler colonial polities nor Indigenous sovereignties.  I then speculate the elements of a trauma analytic for American histories and briefly weigh such an analytic’s pros and cons.