Trauma beyond the victim's ethics

What was the problem?

Societal changes took place in the last decade which deeply altered the speech on the victims, as well as the victim support dispositives, with these taking legitimized forms of access to the public space and of reclaiming of rights. This reclaiming of rights and the access to the public space generate tensions in the relations between trauma communities, defined as affected persons' collective, atomized victims and organized victims. Important questions have, thus, emerged which are not solely circumscribed to the speech and dispositives' spheres, but which inquires material, symbolic and political assumptions, making the genealogy of the concepts such as victim, trauma and post-traumatic stress necessary. This genealogy further implies an understanding of the progressive institutionalization and of the way the trauma paradigm is affirmed.

What did we do?

Project “TRAUMA - Victims, trauma and institutional processes: beyond the victims' ethics” started from an initial question, which was knowing which societal changes have occurred for the speeches on the victims and the victim support dispositives to become legitimized forms of access to the public space and of reclaiming of rights. Starting with a comparative perspective which, analysing the emerging differences, sought to understand in the different French and Portuguese cases analysed how the States regulate and answer to the challenges placed by the accidents and catastrophes and by the presence of the victims and their relatives in the public space.
Soon, the contact with the victims' associations in both countries allowed the understanding that, more relevant than building a victim concept genealogy, what was fruitful theoretically and epistemologically was to understand how the different actors in this field, from the State to the companies, the victims, their relatives and representatives sought to circumscribe or normalize the victimization impact in the citizenship policies, or in the case of the victims and their associations, how the victim condition was enhancer of the configuration of a citizenship and access to rights logic.
The project further concluded that in Portugal, unlike in the French case, no long-term monitoring mechanism existed, nor unifying or institutionalization mechanisms for the State's action in the face of trauma.

What happened?

Beyond the conclusions derived from the project, the research team has been in the public space, through several participations in radio and television programs in which the trauma situation in Portugal was debated and assessed. This space allowed the approach of how the media contribute for the generalization of a speech around these extreme events, how they normalize narratives and ways of reading the world, and how they hinder the emerging of alternative grammars anchored upon experience.
The research team continues active, following several national and international situations, among which we presently find the post-disaster moments of the 2017 fires and of Pedrógão Grande's tragedy.

Related Projects


Victims, trauma and institutional processes: beyond the victims\' ethics

José Manuel Mendes

March 1, 2011 to August 31, 2014

Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology

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