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Trauma beyond the Biomedical Paradigm: Avenues for a Subject-oriented and Contextual Trauma Approach

This article provides a succinct overview of the structure and key findings of a psychoanalytically inspired theoretical doctoral thesis on psychological trauma. Starting from four core criticisms directed at the hegemonic, biomedical PTSD-model of trauma, the author makes use of the works of Jacques Lacan, Alain Badiou and Slavoj Žižek (amongst others) to develop a trauma framework that counters the current tendency to (1) conceptualise traumatic etiology in a mechanistic fashion, (2) to individualize, (3) decontextualize and (4) depoliticize trauma. One clear conclusion is that (the success of) the PTSD-model of trauma is dependent on an implicit yet well-defined ethical position, mirroring the prevailing ethical stance in the West – beyond any strictly scientific claims. The author argues that the pitfalls of this model can be avoided by acknowledging the dimension of the Real and incorporating the notion of the act in our understanding of trauma and its treatment.

Between Railway Spine and PTSD

A hundred years ago the world witnessed the start of an armed conflict unlike anything that preceded it. A series of initiatives to commemorate the human suffering involved typically used the framework of psychic trauma to understand what had transpired. Although such a move seems obvious to the contemporary eye, the author argues that it was by no means straightforward at the time of the conflict itself. In this article, the current, hegemonic model of psychic trauma is briefly described, in which special attention is paid to the problematic core assumptions that underpin it. Next, the author turns to the history of trauma studies, mainly focusing on two crucial moments: (1) the railroad accidents in the 19th century, which gave rise to the idea of railway spine, and (2) the controversy regarding Shell Shock in World War I. This historical review allows the author to formulate four conclusions that call into question the tendency to reify our current understanding of traumatic phenomena.