Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry

, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 169–187 | Cite as

The Work of Indebtedness: The Traumatic Present of Late Capitalist Chile

  • Clara Han

Abstract

In political and biomedical discourses, “posttraumatic stress disorder” has become a set of organizing concepts for trauma and traumatic memory. These concepts, however, are predicated on an understanding of traumatic memory as a discrete etiological event that, when reexperienced, is productive of symptoms. In this essay, I explore alternative framings of trauma that arise out of historical changes in political economic language and from experiences of monetary, historical, and affective indebtedness in Santiago, Chile. This ethnographic research is based in an historically leftist población(poor urban sector) and follows the interwoven narratives of a formerly exiled communist militant and her adopted daughter. Throughout this essay, I describe the mother's attempts to inhabit an untimely language of socialist politics and the daughter's rejection of both this language and her mother's pain. I elaborate on how these attempts are products of and productive of monetary and intersubjective indebtedness in a neoliberal present. By describing the differing historical languages inhabited by these subjects, I attempt to evoke an understanding of trauma not as an individual possession or etiological event, but rather as a referential dissonance in the neoliberal context. This referential dissonance emerges from the gap between the historical languages that inform subjectivities. I explore how such a gap can create contexts in which the everyday itself both threatens the disarticulation of the subject and produces injurious affective relationships. In this way, I interrogate relationships between trauma, recovery, and the everyday.

anthropology of suffering Chilean society indebtedness neoliberalism posttraumatic stress disorder subjectivity trauma 

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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Clara Han
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyHarvard UniversityUSA
  2. 2.Department of Social MedicineHarvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA

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