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This collection explores the ways in which traumatic experience becomes a part of public memory. It explores the premise that traumatic events are realities; they happen in the world, not in the fantasy life of individuals or in the narrative frames of our televisions and cinemas.





During the past two decades, there has been a rapid growth in the literature on traumatic memory and a corresponding diversification in focus, but what remains missing from the expanding field of commentary is any sustained consideration of how those who are outsiders to the experience deal with the challenge of its presence in their world. Related to this are some fundamental questions about how traumatic events are acknowledged in the public domain, and come to form part of the fabric of public memory.
Jane Goodall, Christopher Lee



1. ‘But Why Should You People at Home Not Know?’: Sacrifice as a Social Fact in the Public Memory of War

Lieutenant J. A. Raws, a 33-year-old journalist from Melbourne, Australia, describes here his experience of one of the greatest conflagrations of the Great War. It was 4 August 1916 and Raws was nearing the end of his own personal involvement in the battle for Pozieres on the great Somme battlefield. Australian success in capturing this important strongpoint in the German defensive line created a narrow salient which enabled the enemy to concentrate its artillery on the assaulting forces from three directions. Shells falling short from British support batteries far behind ensured their complete encirclement. The failure of the push on both flanks also meant that most of the enemy’s available artillery could be brought to bear on that one small French village and the gentle ridge that turned its immediate surrounds into a strategic objective. The shelling at Pozieres is often described as amongst the most sustained and concentrated bombardments of the First World War. In seven weeks of fighting here three Australian divisions suffered 23,000 casualties. Thirty per cent of these were killed or died of wounds; the majority of them – Raws and his younger brother Lieut. R. G. (‘Goldy’) Raws included – received no known grave. The two men are commemorated on the Australian memorial at Villers-Bretonneux, 25 kilometres away to the south and west, in the Books of Remembrance at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne, the Roll of Honour in the Australian War Memorial in the national capital Canberra, and on a small honour board in the Flinders Street Baptist Church in Adelaide, where their father was minister (Figure 1.1).
Christopher Lee

2. Trauma, Dispossession and Narrative Truth: ‘Seeds of the Nation’ of South Sudan

Below us, the River Nile snakes in glittering, swamp-lined curves across the endless savannah of central South Sudan. I am on a small internal flight from Juba, the new nation’s capital, heading north to Bor, the old garrison town and capital of Jonglei State, as part of fieldwork in refugee settlement. On the flight are members of Dinka Bor clans returning home for the first time since resettling as refugees in host countries of the Global North. Some, like my two companions and I, are travelling from as far afield as the eastern states of Australia.
Wendy Richards

3. Trauma and the Stoic Foundations of Sympathy

When Catherine Samba Panza, recently elected interim President of the Central African Republic, stepped up to address the national army on 5 February 2014, she issued a call for unity in a country on the verge of civil war. Almost as soon as the president had made her exit, there was an accusatory shout from someone in the ranks of the army, addressed to a man in the crowd. The cry was taken up by others, who rushed upon the man and pulled him to the ground. What followed was a protracted lynching, during which the impetus was broken for a moment when a gendarme from the ranks of the Burundi peacekeeping contingent stepped forward to intervene. Then he too was surrounded, and had to be pulled to safety by fellow officers who judged it too dangerous to do anything other than stand and watch. Also watching were several international journalists and photographers, and local civilians with their children, some of whom filmed it on mobile phones (Central African Republic: Justice Needed for Lynching 2014).
Jane Goodall

4. Unremembered: Memorial, Sentimentality, Dislocation

The focus here will be on understanding the ‘psycho-social’ function of collective memory, by which we refer simply to any phenomenon in which social factors impact on an individual’s thoughts or behaviour. The term ‘collective memory’ raises questions about the extent to which the tendency to memorialise within social fields involves collective un-remembering. I use the term to capture a crucial distinction: between the individual who has a mind of her own and a society that impacts on that mind from without. This distinction presents a challenge to any study of mass phenomena, such as, for example, the socially significant meanings attached to war memorials. Psychologists and psychoanalysts have a well-developed set of explanations for how individuals form meaningful attachments to objects,1 but explanations about collective formations falter when they revert to concepts drawn from individual psychology. As Paul Ricœur points out in Memory, History, Forgetting, by the end of the twentieth century, for sociologists at least, ‘collective consciousness is … one of those realities whose ontological status is not in question’ (Ricœur 2004, p. 95). Even with this pronouncement, Ricœur is reluctant to draw the psychological field into play in explanations of the social.
Laurie Johnson



5. Interview with Ross Anderson, Clinical Psychologist

Jane Goodall, Christopher Lee

6. Interview with Therese Lee, Specialist in Emergency and Retrieval Nursing

Jane Goodall, Christopher Lee

7. Interview with Norman Fry, Disaster Co-ordinator for the Toowoomba Regional Council at the Time of the 2011 Floods

Jane Goodall, Christopher Lee

8. Interview with Councillor Tanya Milligan, Chair of Human and Social Response Committee Following the Lockyer Valley Floods in South East Queensland, and Sue Hewitt, Senior Recovery Officer

Jane Goodall, Christopher Lee

9. Interview with Mark Willacy, Foreign Correspondent with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Jane Goodall, Christopher Lee



10. Unburied Trauma and the Exhumation of History: An American Genealogy

On 15 July 2010, the decayed hull of an eighteenth-century sailing vessel was uneart hed by construction workers at the World Trade Center site, adjacent to space allocated for the 9/11 Memorial. The ghostly ship emerged from the excavation several stories below sea level. Its hull, deck and anchor remained virtually intact, despite being submerged for nearly 200 years. It was most likely used as landfill debris by builders in the early nineteenth century, in an effort to expand Manhattan’s coastline across the Hudson River. As further evidence of the instability of history and the complexity of human inscription at the site, roughly half of what is now Ground Zero was actually part of the Hudson River prior to 1797 (Mustain 2010). As waterfront land became increasingly valuable, developers created new real estate through landfilling operations (Cantwell and Wall 2001, p. 225). The materials they used were as diverse and revelatory as the communities founded upon the refuse. Archaeologists have uncovered large quantities of trash in seventeenth-century landfills, indicating that the sites were used as a dumping grounds by local residents and garbage collectors. Other New York landfills contained Native American relics and Caribbean coralline sand, which was used as ship ballast then discarded upon arrival in the harbour (Cantwell and Wall 2001, p. 227).
Lindsay Tuggle

11. The Atrocity Tour

When he returned to southern Germany from the United States after the Second World War ended in 1945, Alfred Döblin, the author of Berlin Alexanderplatz, was amazed to see people walking ‘down the street past the dreadful ruins as if nothing had happened’ and that ‘the town had always looked like that’ (qtd. in Sebald 2006, p. 5). When I first read these words they seemed to speak so much about the negative experience of modernity in the twentieth century, so much about the way these victims of destruction and devastation were now com-plicit in their own misfortune by passively accepting their lot with an almost embarrassing apathy. But then again, I also wondered, what else were these people in the broken streets supposed to do? The town, almost every town in Germany, really did look like that now, so what choice did they have but to accept the gruesome reality of the present and try to simply look past the trauma all around them as best they could?
Lindsay Barrett

12. Regaining Lost Humanity: Dealing with Trauma in Exile

If the processes of forced migration involve trauma, distance and rupture, what does it mean if both your country of origin and your new home try to erase you from their public memory? In this chapter, we present the literary work of Cuban-born Reinaldo Arenas as a representation of resilience against multiple traumas. Rather than dissociation, which is often found in documented cases of trauma, Arenas’s projections of self and place were a productive mechanism he used to survive. Literally and figuratively, for much of his life Arenas lived that embodied conviction, that indeed ‘words — might save him’ (1989, p. 49).
Robert Mason, Geoffrey Parkes

13. Popular Entertainments as Survival Strategies in Prisoner-of-War Camps During World War II

This chapter discusses the measures taken by prisoners of war to cope with the humiliation of capture and incarceration, with particular examples drawn from the experiences of British and Commonwealth troops in German camps. For members of the armed forces, whether professional soldiers or volunteers, the process of humiliation began at the moment of capture. It was after all an admission of failure whether in the face of overwhelming enemy numbers, failed lines of communication, or simply running out of ammunition. Suddenly they found themselves deracinated and individually helpless as they began the long marches to prisoner-of-war camps or were loaded into overcrowded cattle trucks for a journey that might take several days. At least, however, there was a sense of eventual destination. Yet arrival marked the beginning of a very different kind of humiliation, as personal belongings were stripped away and as they were reduced to undifferentiated members of a herd: it reinforced the sense of pointlessness and loss of temporality. Time now stood still. Many succumbed, overwhelmed by being cut off from the past and facing a future that seemed to have no end in sight. Yet others developed strategies of mutual reinforcement. Typically, these involved the creation of communities of interest within which memory, both in its collective and public manifestations, played a key role. Of these the most significant and enduring were the concert parties and theatrical organisations which flourished in all prisoner-of-war camps.
Victor Emeljanow

14. A Soldier’s Perspective on Serving in Iraq and Afghanistan

I am working with my Dutch colleagues in the Task Force Uruzgan operations room on another March day in southern Afghanistan.1 I am far removed from my university, and in a world where acronyms such as INS (Insurgents) and RPG (rocket-propelled grenade), MAJ (Major), LT (Lieutenant), CPL (Corporal), LCPL (Lance Corporal), and PTE (Private) need no explanation. We are a short helicopter flight and a long drive north of Kandahar and Helmand provinces, areas of intense fighting. Our mountainous province, just over half the size of Wales but with a far smaller population and only one paved road, is relatively peaceful. It is something of a backwater but as a province with links to both Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai and Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar, it is terrain that is still inextricably linked to the conflict. On this day we have patrols of soldiers in the field, Afghan National Army (ANA) troops accompanied by their Australian mentors.
Richard Gehrmann



The gap between the individual’s experience of trauma in the world and the ways in which that trauma is taken up as part of the memory of a wider public is a hard one to close and a fraught thing to ignore. The difficulties in examining this tension can be traced to the methodological and theoretical challenges of an inter-disciplinary set of knowledges that struggle to understand memory as a broader social phenomenon and trauma as an encounter with harm that is implicated in a wider set of social and political contingencies.
Jane Goodall, Christopher Lee


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