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- Collective Trauma and the Social Construction of Meaning
German churches have led way in this process and have developed a post-war theology of repentance. Similarly, the Holocaust is part of the school curriculum from elementary school onward. The current prevailing liberal attitude in Germany that favors multiculturalism and opposes militarism of any form can be understood as a new cultural identity that uses the difficult past constructively as the backdrop of its current positive image.
This reconstruction of meaning through acknowledgment of past transgressions has, thus far, received only some empirical attention e. Until recently, the psychological literature has focused almost exclusively on psychopathology and health-related consequences of collective trauma e. But today, there is a burgeoning interest in understanding the social and political implications of perpetration and victimization as well Vollhardt, This literature has already yielded several important insights: for example, it has demonstrated the relationship between collective victim beliefs and the justification and legitimization of current political violence Maoz and Eidelson, ; Wohl and Branscombe, ; Vollhardt, , and has also delineated the experience of collective victimhood, the material gains, and competition over these gains that are associated with it Noor et al.
The current paper offers another perspective that is based neither on pathology nor on the belligerent consequences of trauma. Instead, it views collective trauma as a genuine experience with real consequences for subsequent generations. The preponderance of literature on historical victimization is situated in the intergroup relations literature Noor et al. Because one of the core goals of intergroup relations research is to understand and promote conflict resolution and reconciliation, the long-term effects of collective trauma are often evaluated by this criteria.
Accordingly, historical victimization is typically understood as a barrier to peacemaking and a distorted lens Schori-Eyal et al.
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In this paper I contend that the memory of victimization has both adaptive and maladaptive manifestations. Although members of victim groups may be less trusting of adversaries and more reluctant to compromise and make peace, this reaction may, at times, protect the group from duplicitous gestures of peace from disingenuous adversaries. Although the memory of trauma may foster a paranoid and paralyzing post-traumatic outlook, it may also spur growth through the meaning derived from the trauma.
A meaning that emphasizes the resilience of the group and its ability to rehabilitate and change in the aftermath of calamity. These consequences are especially pertinent as these new generations of victim and perpetrator descendants attempt to construct social meaning that can explain the past, provide a roadmap to navigate present challenges, and prepare the group for the future.
Tired of Being a Refugee - 5. Academia, Palestinians and Identity - Graduate Institute Publications
The author confirms being the sole contributor of this work and approved it for publication. The author declares that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Journal List Front Psychol v. Front Psychol.
Published online Aug Author information Article notes Copyright and License information Disclaimer. Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, Herzliya, Israel. This article was submitted to Personality and Social Psychology, a section of the journal Frontiers in Psychology. Received Jan 16; Accepted Jul The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author s and the copyright owner s are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice.
No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms. Abstract Collective trauma is a cataclysmic event that shatters the basic fabric of society. Keywords: collective trauma, meaning, social identity, victimization, collective memory. Introduction The term collective trauma refers to the psychological reactions to a traumatic event that affect an entire society; it does not merely reflect an historical fact, the recollection of a terrible event that happened to a group of people.
From Disintegration to Newfound Meaning Collective trauma is devastating for individuals and for groups; it constitutes a cataclysmic event that affects not only direct victims, but society as a whole. Sociologist Kai Erikson eloquently describes the similarities and differences between individual and collective trauma and their impact on the self: simple. Trauma Generates a Search for Meaning Individuals and nations possess a collective memory Halbwachs, of historical events, even those that took place long before they were born Licata and Mercy, From Adaptive Vigilance to Post-traumatic Worldviews This relatively straightforward evolutionary explanation, however, does not suffice to explain the adaptive function of keeping the memory of trauma alive, because in some cases the historical perpetrator is no longer present.
Trauma Motivates Self-Continuity Existential threat prompts a motivation for self-continuity and symbolic immortality through social identity e. Meaning Is Not Monolithic: Social Representations of Trauma At this point of the analysis of collective trauma and meaning, we have seen how trauma creates meaning for victim groups; it alleviates existential threat, induces a search for collective meaning, operates to embed the individual in a social group that transcends physical existence, promotes a continuous historical self spanning centuries and millennia that is valued above individual life, and increases group identification and group cohesion.
Part II: Perpetrators Trauma Threatens Meaning for Perpetrators The manner by which an historical trauma is represented in collective memory may present an identity threat Branscombe et al. Denying the Trauma The most extreme form of defense against the threat posed by collective trauma to the moral image of perpetrators is to deny that the traumatic event ever took place.
Reconstructing the Trauma In the aftermath of collective trauma, discerning victims from perpetrators, and willing collaborators from collaborators at gunpoint, is often not clear cut. Closing the Door on Trauma Unlike third party collaborators that enjoy some degree of freedom in constructing a positive collective memory of the past that is not blatantly false, the direct perpetrators of trauma have no such luxury.
Acknowledging Responsibility One of the most difficult decisions perpetrator groups face is whether to accept responsibility for past transgressions and apologize for the harm they have done. Author Contributions The author confirms being the sole contributor of this work and approved it for publication.
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Conflict of Interest Statement The author declares that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest. Footnotes Funding. References Acosta B. Dying for survival. Peace Res.
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Collective Trauma and the Social Construction of Meaning
Attributions for the negative historical actions of a group. Reconstructing the past and attributing the responsibility for the Holocaust.
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