AHHE-17-1 Special Medical Humanities Issue: Representing Trauma; Honouring Broken Narratives

‘I am tired from all of these feelings’: Narrating suffering in the film Sick                      by Senka Božić-VrbančićRenata KokanovićJelena Kupsjak

This article explores ‘the politics of sentimentality’ with specific reference to the documentary film Sick, which represents the narrative of a young lesbian woman, Ana, who was confined in a psychiatric hospital in Croatia and ‘treated’ for her homosexuality. We consider the ways our most intimate emotional relationships and states, such as pain and suffering, articulate with a wider context of familial citizenship and critically examine the political limits of compassion within the sentimentalised public sphere. In this analysis, we problematise the film’s emotional logic, which presents an individualised narrative resolution at the expense of dwelling on the political question of institutional violence. We examine the role that politics of sentimentality plays in neutralising the film’s political critique of the state apparatuses (psychiatry and family) that enforce heterosexual norms.

Mental illness within family context: Visual dialogues in Joshua Lutz’s photographic essay Hesitating beauty by Agnese Sile

The status of photography within medical arts or humanities is still insecure. Despite a growing number of published photographic essays that disclose illness experience of an individual and how illness affects close relatives, these works have received relatively little scholarly attention. Through analysis of Joshua Lutz’s Hesitating Beauty (2012) which documents his mother who was suffering from schizophrenia, this article will explore how the photographic essay attempts to reconstruct a dialogue between mother and son out of fragmented, broken and undeveloped communications, and in the process how it challenges representation itself, on which it is dependent. The focus of the analysis is on identifying and illuminating the intimate space that opens between the photographer and the photographed person and that provides new forms of communication as well as uncovers existing forms of knowledge that is shared between them. This paper will also assess the political and cultural significance of such representation.


Music as post-traumatic discourse: Nikolay Myaskovsky’s Sixth Symphony
                   by Patrick Zuk

This essay explores ways in which musicologists might extend work undertaken by humanities scholars in the interdisciplinary field of trauma studies that has highlighted the centrality of traumatic experience to modernist creativity. It is focussed around a case study of a musical composition that represents the emotional aftermath of a traumatic event, the Sixth Symphony of the Soviet composer Nikolay Myaskovsky (1923). A central concern is to demonstrate how the symphony’s musical symbolism is strikingly evocative of typical features of post-traumatic mentation, such as dissociation and emotional numbing, and the inhibition of the ability to mourn. It closes by considering the potential implications of the findings for understanding work by other modernist composers.

Knowing the past affectively: Screen media and the evocation of intergenerational trauma by Ana Dragojlović

This article explores the relationship between the affective intensities of screen media and its potential to serve as an affective force for the transmission of intergenerational trauma. I explore how watching a documentary portraying historical atrocities that preceded the birth of the documentary’s viewers yet affected their lives in profound ways, is one of the manifold engagements in genealogy and memory work that seeks to know the past affectively. My focus is on Indisch (Indonesian-Dutch) viewers whose relatives suffered through various atrocities that took place in Indonesia in the 20th century. By ethnographically exploring Indisch affective engagements with Joshua Oppenheimer’s documentary, The Act of Killing (2012), I show how such engagements need to be analysed as occurring across human and non-human interactions and beyond the subject–object distinction. I argue that the affectivity of screen media (in particular, documentaries) that showcase instances of historical violence that have never received much public representation needs to be understood with particular historical contingencies. This article alerts us to how processes of getting to know the past affectively reveal the fragility of the embodied self in the wake of cataclysmic violence.

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