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Trauma and Cinema

Trauma and Cinema: Cross-Cultural Explorations

E. Ann Kaplan
Ban Wang
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 298
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  • Book Info
    Trauma and Cinema
    Book Description:

    This volume addresses the relation of trauma to transnational modern mass media. The first of its kind, Trauma and Cinema: Cross-Cultural Explorations provides ten essays which explore the ways trauma works itself out as media — in images in (and as) film, photography, and video — in global cultural flows. The focus of our volume on the matrix of trauma, visual media and modernity seeks to engage and go beyond current tendencies in trauma studies. The book discusses how trauma presented in the media spills over national boundaries and can be found in images across divergent cultures in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and America. From the Holocaust to the Chinese Cultural Revolution, from Taiwan’s colonial experience to the catastrophe of Hiroshima, from attempted annihilation of Australian Aborigines to attempted reconciliation in South Africa, these essays offer the reader a plethora of images of trauma for comparison and contrast.

    eISBN: 978-988-220-295-5
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Contributors
    (pp. vii-ix)
  4. Introduction From Traumatic Paralysis to the Force Field of Modernity
    (pp. 1-22)
    E. Ann Kaplan and Ban Wang

    The fundamental event of the modern age, Martin Heidegger declares, is ʺthe conquest of the world as picture.ʺ This description has been borne out again and again by the much talked-about theory of the decline of history and politics in the global display of simulacra. Rescuing a bit of historical lesson from Forrest Gump, Vivian Sobchack tells us in a volume devoted to the trauma of the modern event, that this jocular film nevertheless shows that even an historically absentminded, dimwitted person can be ʺin history, make history.ʺ This is due to the fact that ʺshit happensʺ all the time,...

  5. Part One: Trauma and Cross-Cultural Encounters

    • 1 This Is My History Trauma, Testimony, and Nation-Building in the ʺNewʺ South Africa
      (pp. 25-44)
      Sarah L. Lincoln

      Since 1995, the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission has been engaged in the process of hearing and recording the testimony of those who suffered under apartheid over the past thirty years. As a process of speaking ʺthe Truthʺ about South Africaʹs traumatic past, the Truth Commission (TRC) has come to be seen — both in South Africa and abroad — as a necessary precondition for the building of a unified and integrated nation, the ʺnew South Africa.ʺ

      Established by the 1995 ʺPromotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act,ʺ the Commission ʺprovides a historic bridge between the past of a...

    • 2 Traumatic Contact Zones and Embodied Translators With Reference to Select Australian Texts
      (pp. 45-64)
      E. Ann Kaplan

      Recent catastrophic events (such as the September 11, 2001 attacks on the USA), remind us of the urgency for a focus on transnational conflict with a view to developing understanding. We need to move from the pattern of violence, and its ensuing trauma, to producing translators to mediate across difference. We have to find ways to transfer difference into something other than trauma. My effort here may be seen as one act of translation among many, in which I explore texts representing other acts of translation already underway or imagined.¹

      Two distinct stages are involved in acts of translation: the...

    • 3 A World of Sadness?
      (pp. 65-90)
      Robert Chi

      Among the more pressing influences on the knotty problem of who and what is to be considered Chinese is the tension between local conditions and global horizons.¹ It is within this tension that collectivity — whether understood as national, ethnic, racial, linguistic, or cultural — fitfully emerges as a lived and shared reality. During the twentieth century Taiwan was one of the most volatile sites for such processes, for several reasons. Foremost among these is the fact that the governments that have ruled Taiwan either have had their actual center of power elsewhere (e.g., Japan) or, until very recently, have...

  6. Part Two: Screening War and Terror

    • 4 Post-traumatic Cinema and the Holocaust Documentary
      (pp. 93-122)
      Joshua Hirsch

      Of the mass killing of more than ten million people in Nazi concentration camps and by Nazi mobile killing units (Einsatzgruppen), there is only one known piece of motion picture footage, lasting about two minutes.¹ It was shot in 1941 by Reinhard Wiener, a German Naval Sergeant and amateur cinematographer stationed in Latvia. According to testimony given by Wiener in Israel in 1981, he had walked into the town of Liepaja one day in August of that year, carrying with him his 8mm film camera loaded with stock, as he did whenever possible, in case he saw something he wanted...

    • 5 The Vicissitudes of Traumatic Memory and the Postmodern History Film
      (pp. 123-144)
      Janet Walker

      Second World War veterans were in the eye of the hurricane that surrounded the 1998 release of Steven Spielbergʹs Saving Private Ryan — the first of a recent cycle of movies and books about ʺthe good war.ʺ¹ It is these grizzled survivors who were deployed at special screenings and press junkets² to justify the filmʹs graphic violence in an era when gratuitous violence is under fire.³ And it is the veterans to whom the historians bowed as a ceremonial gesture before doing combat with the filmʹs historical authenticity: the 22nd SS Panzer division was nowhere near the front on June...

    • 6 Allegorizing Hiroshima Shindo Kanetoʹs Onibaba as Trauma Text
      (pp. 145-161)
      Adam Lowenstein

      Shindo Kaneto dreams of writing and directing a feature-length film that transpires entirely during the split second of the atomic detonation over Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.¹ Whether or not this ambitious project is ever completed, Shindoʹs dream testifies to a remarkable artistic commitment that has already produced what is arguably the most important and undervalued body of work dealing with the atomic bomb in Japanese cinema. Rather than provide a detailed overview of Shindoʹs long and prolific career as a director/screenwriter or even a comprehensive analysis of each of his atomic-themed films (although both of these tasks deserve scholarly...

  7. Part Three: Traumatic Memory, Narrative, and the Reconstruction of History

    • 7 Hiroshima, mon amour, Trauma, and the Sublime
      (pp. 165-182)
      Andrew Slade

      Trauma ruptures the world of our daily experiences. It is an intrusion that threatens the body and psyche and affects us in symptomatic ways. That something happened is certain, what that is, however, resists comprehension and understanding. The impetus of much contemporary trauma research in the humanities derives from the coincidence of survivorsʹ insistence on the truth of their experiences and life in a global culture that multiplies traumatic circumstances. These circumstances pose a radical threat to the fecundity of human life, to be sure, and also to the very possibility of brute survival. My aim in this essay is...

    • 8 Encountering Paralysis Disability, Trauma and Narrative
      (pp. 183-202)
      Petra Kuppers

      Cathy Caruthʹs explorations of trauma and memory detail traumaʹs status in relation to reference, namely the relationship between immediate experience and language.¹ With this, Caruth intervenes in ʺthe concern that the epistemological problems raised by poststructuralist criticism necessarily lead to political and ethical paralysis.ʺ² She posits that trauma allows for us

      … a rethinking of reference [that] is aimed not at eliminating history but at resituating it in our understanding, that is, at precisely permitting history to arise where immediate understanding may not. (11)

      Mediation, distance, repetition — these processes which intervene in the ʺimmediate understandingʺ — allow for a...

    • 9 To Live The Survival Philosophy of the Traumatized
      (pp. 203-216)
      Zhaohui Xiong

      Scholars and artists in China have been concerned about the representation of Chinese history. Although historical consciousness has always pervaded literary representation, re-encountering the past has become an even more obsessive need in the new millennium. Shortly after the Tianʹanmen Incident in 1989 and near the end of a disastrous century, China saw the further disillusion of socialist idealism and rapid integration into the ʺpostmodernʺ world culture. ʺUnofficialʺ aesthetic activities, which emerged and flourished in the 1980s, now took on an altered face. Political radicalism, which had posed a justice-against-injustice challenge to the official interpretation of history, now gave way...

    • 10 Trauma, Visuality, and History in Chinese Literature and Film
      (pp. 217-240)
      Ban Wang

      In 1918, the magazine New Youth of the May Fourth New Culture launched a debate on the reform of Chinese theater. Critics charged the traditional theater with perpetuating self-consoling, deceptive melodrama and obsolete emotional narrative structures. The trite narrative embodying Confucian morality and yielding cheaply rounded-off emotional satisfaction, they argued, detracted attention from historical reality and blocked artistic creativity. They called for a realist theater in the tragic mode, which would seek to cut through these obsolete narrative protocols and emotional patterns to get at the ʺrealʺ stratum of history. The intellectuals seemed to be groping toward a new form...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 241-272)
  9. Index
    (pp. 273-288)