Languages of Trauma

Key information

3:15 pm to 5:00 pm
Main Building, Russell Square

About this event

Part of the Anthropology Departmental Seminar Series 2022

Professor Richard Rechtman

EHESS (École des hautes études en sciences sociales)

Wednesday 23rd November 2022, 3.15-5pm, Room G3


Since the end of the 60’s trauma has become one of the key concept to understand the rise and the development of global mental Health all around the world. Of course many other diagnosis are of great importance in regard to promote the issue of emerging mental health policies. Schizophrenia, of course, major depression, too. But none of them could have been include in international health policies if trauma didn’t have change the image of psychological suffering and the need of treating traumatized people.

Nowadays trauma helps to qualify without « discrimination » people suffering from various psychological disorders as far as this suffering can be connected to any difficulties of the reality of life. But that was not always the case. For more than 70 years, trauma has been the signature of weakness, cowardice and shame. This long history of suspicion attached to people suffering from trauma deserves to be revisited in order to understand the different uses of trauma which today serve often contradictory interests.


Richard Rechtman is an anthropologist and psychiatrist and director of studies at EHESS in Paris (full professor). Since 1990, he has directed a transcultural outpatient clinic for refugees in central Paris. He is the author of several books in French and coauthor, with Didier Fassin, of The Empire of Trauma: An Inquiry into the Condition of Victimhood (2009), which won the William A. Douglass Book Prize. He recently published “Living in death. Genocide and its functionaries. Fordham, University Press 2022 (Winner, Prix Littéraire Paris-Liège 2021, Winner, French Voices Award for Excellence in Publication and Translation).