Trigger warnings and the unformulated experience


This paper reflects upon the debates over the use of trigger warnings in educational spaces from a feminist psychoanalytic perspective. The writer posits that underlying the debate is a dissociative mechanism that results in psychological splitting. Dissociation is used to defend against formulating and acknowledging students’ traumatic experiences, especially minority students, e.g., women and people of color. This dissociation is coupled with a patriarchal order that often frames educational pedagogy, and deems different human qualities as gendered and hierarchal. Rationality is equated with masculinity and valued, while emotionality is equated with femininity and devalued. Hence, educational spaces often privilege rational knowledge and diminish the role of emotion and intuition. This can lead to discussion of the latter becoming unwelcome and inappropriate. The writer argues that, in order to create educational spaces that foster critical thinking, and not mere reproduction of knowledge, the integration of the dissociated and devalued aspects of the experience is imperative.

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Correspondence to Nirit Gordon.

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Gordon, N. Trigger warnings and the unformulated experience. Psychoanal Cult Soc 23, 204–210 (2018).

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  • trigger warnings
  • dissociation
  • gender
  • teaching
  • pedagogy