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Bassin, D. (2017). From “bystander to witness”: The art of mourning and the Veterans’ Art Movement. Int. Forum Psychoanal., 26(4):236-241.

(2017). International Forum of Psychoanalysis, 26(4):236-241

From “bystander to witness”: The art of mourning and the Veterans’ Art Movement

Donna Bassin

Numerous veterans have observed that one does not heal from war, but rather one learns to surrender to the complicated losses that wartime experiences bring. Veterans have pushed back against stereotyped images of themselves as heroes, victims, or perpetrators. Many have challenged the implications of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a diagnosis, as well as the effectiveness of evidence-based treatment procedures for PTSD. Work emerging from the Veterans’ Art Movement by a poet, a photographer, and a “Combat Paper” maker will be discussed in relation to the tasks of mourning, reparation, and formation of postwar narratives. The work of these veterans offers useful insights into the psychosocial implications of unresolvable traumatic loss, as well as detailed strategies for the creation of therapeutic mourning spaces. Through a variety of artistic practices, veterans have created opportunities to transform themselves and their communities from mere bystanders to attuned witnesses of the dire consequences of war. Their work calls our attention to the therapeutic actions of aesthetic representation and art-making in the communalization of war trauma. Additionally, they expand our understanding of art practices for the identification of postwar losses and the working-through of moral injury.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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