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Narrating Trauma: Michel Foucault, Judith Butler and the Political Ethics of Self-Narration

Borg, Kurt (2020) Narrating Trauma: Michel Foucault, Judith Butler and the Political Ethics of Self-Narration. Doctoral thesis, Staffordshire University.

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Abstract or description

This thesis presents a multi-disciplinary analysis of the ethics and politics of narrating trauma in institutional contexts. Drawing on the philosophical works of Michel Foucault and Judith Butler, this thesis studies the norms, discourses and power relations that impact survivors’ narrations of trauma in, for example, medical and legal settings. Through a use and application of Foucault’s ideas, it is argued that while self-narration is a diversified activity, discourses and power relations function to regulate, circumscribe and constrain the forms in which traumatised individuals must narrate trauma in order for their narrative to be favourably treated by institutions who encounter trauma. Building on Foucault’s views and feminist applications of his work, it is shown how possibilities of resistance – or, of narrating otherwise – are co-existent with exercises of power, despite the power imbalance that typically characterises the encounter of traumatised individuals with institutions. This thesis also focuses on Butler’s work as complementing Foucault’s views on how self-narration is entangled with discourses and power relations, and considers how her ideas on vulnerability, precariousness and relationality inform her account of self-narration. Butler’s critique of the conception of self-narration based on the sovereignty, coherence and mastery of the narrating subject is elaborated further in relation to issues in trauma theory, where it is argued that narrative coherence often functions as a hegemonic norm. This analysis of narrative coherence is pursued by a study of how survivors’ testimonies of sexual trauma in legal and political contexts is circumscribed, facilitating certain forms of self-narration while silencing others. Narrative coherence is also shown to be a dominant norm in the psychological sciences, whose theories and practices have an influential bearing on how trauma is narrated by traumatised individuals. This thesis also presents an analysis of the different levels of inequality that determine the worth and currency of trauma narratives in the asylum seeking process. Tying together the different concerns pursued throughout this work, the thesis concludes with a critical consideration of the discursive

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty: School of Creative Arts and Engineering > Humanities and Performing Arts
Depositing User: Library STORE team
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2020 15:15
Last Modified: 06 Feb 2020 15:15

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