Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry

, Volume 39, Issue 3, pp 428–448 | Cite as

On the Social Constructionist Approach to Traumatized Selves in Post-disaster Settings: State-Induced Violence in Nandigram, India

  • Kumar Ravi PriyaEmail author
Original Paper


Through the use of concepts such as traumatization and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the distressing experiences of survivors are understood in psychology and psychiatry primarily as the behavioural symptoms resulting supposedly from an incomplete emotional and cognitive processing of traumatic events. Due to such an exclusive focus on the intra-psychic processes, besides the survivors’ healing facilitated by cultural beliefs and symbols, their trauma-related distress associated with the cultural interpretation of loss is also generally ignored. This paper illustrates the utility of the social constructionist paradigm in understanding the survivors’ experiences of suffering and healing within the cultural and socio-political context of violence through an ethnographic study among the poor farmers of Nandigram, India, inflicted by violence from the state government as it tried to forcibly acquire their land to build a chemical factory. How the traumatized selves experience intense distress resulting from disruptions to a sense of wholeness and how this wholeness may be reformulated through culturally valued beliefs are highlighted in the themes of suffering (‘experience of PTSD symptoms’, ‘betrayed self’, ‘overwhelmed by loss’, and ‘biographical disruption’) and healing (‘moral re-affirmation’, ‘sense of togetherness’, ‘sense of security due to change in political environment’) presented in the vignettes.


Ethnography Healing Social constructionism Suffering Traumatized self 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Humanities and Social SciencesIndian Institute of Technology KanpurKanpurIndia

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