BREAKING THE CONSPIRACY OF SILENCE265
In this discussion, I examine ways the “trauma story” is elicited and structuredin the context of psychotherapy with survivors of political violence. Data from twoethnographic case studies are presented. One is based on the activities at a rehabili-tation program for survivors of torture and refugee trauma in New York, where I wasa participant-observer. This case deals with the themes of countertransference and the“conspiracy of silence.” The other is based on interviews I conducted with cliniciansand discursive materials that address the topic of a therapeutic approach called the“testimony method.” Through these examples and an analysis of several ethical, nor-mative, and epistemological assumptions related to traumatic memory and thememory work of testimony and witnessing, I will demonstrate how an ideology mayform that works against restoring the full agency of clients. Conclusions of this study haverelevance for anthropologists who act as “witnessing professionals.” [Trauma, testimony,witnessing, memory, psychotherapy]
In late-20th-century Western culture, trauma emerged as a paradigmaticdiscourse for defining the catastrophic, calamitous, or otherwise injurious, forattributing blame and accountability, and for organizing subjectivity and iden-tity. The traumatic has also become a metaphor for characterizing thehistorical epoch of the present (Douglass and Vogler 2003). Constituted withthe discourse of trauma has been an intensification of a therapeutic ethos thatregisters distress in a psychological idiom. In this idiom, suffering is located inindividual psyches and social interventions focus on the domain of the self and
Vol. 35, Issue 3, pp. 265–299, ISSN 0091-2131 online ISSN 1548-1352. © 2007 by the AmericanAnthropological Association. All rights reserved. Please direct all requests for permission to photocopy orreproduce article content through the University of California Press’s Rights and Permissions website,http://www.ucpressjournals.com/reprintInfo.asp. DOI: 10.1525/ETH.2007.35.3.265.
“Breaking the Conspiracy ofSilence”: Testimony, TraumaticMemory, and Psychotherapy with Survivors of Political Violence