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Schwartz, M.M. (2002). Locating Trauma: A Commentary on Ruth Leys's Trauma: A Genealogy: Ruth Leys. Trauma: A Genealogy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000. x + 318 pp. $55.00 ($19.00 pb).. Am. Imago, 59(3):367-384.

(2002). American Imago, 59(3):367-384

Review Essay

Locating Trauma: A Commentary on Ruth Leys's Trauma: A Genealogy: Ruth Leys. Trauma: A Genealogy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000. x + 318 pp. $55.00 ($19.00 pb).

Review by:
Murray M. Schwartz

“Analysis should lead to the sharing of a truth supposed possible between the analyst and the analysand, acknowledgment of which aids in their mutual emancipation.”

—André Green, “The Double and the Absen.”

We speak of trauma incessantly these days, so much so that when a recent story in The New York Times about troubles in the Catholic church casually refers to “the now familiar trauma of a sexual abuse scandal” (5/14/02), we may not pause to reflect on the many questions the phrase implies. In what sense can a trauma be “familia.”? Is the scandal itself traumatic, or the fact of its occurrence, or is it the sexual abuse alone? For whom is this abuse traumatic? To what extent has the scandal simply occurred and in what ways is it a media creation, defined for its political and economic uses? And is not “abuse,” like trauma, another term incessantly used to refer to or evoke an enormous variety of experiences? Elastic uses of loaded terms seem symptomatic of our times, and the list could go on. Add “addiction,” for example, or “victim.” The events of September 11, 2001, have certainly exacerbated the stretch marks of linguistic usage, but the problem of locating sources and meanings of overwhelming experiences and psychic dangers was felt urgently long before that disruptive day. The burgeoning interdisciplinary literature on trauma is both a response to and a symptom of our times, and Ruth Leys's Trauma: A Genealogy aims to clarify the central issues.

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