Understanding children’s trauma; Contemporary consequences

Posted: April 20, 2014 in Academic Research

Trauma of Palestinian childhood in relation to human rights organizations and developments agencies construct subjective childhoods and the way they are transformed, construct certain activities of the consequences of violent interventions.

Trauma became a mean for Palestinian children to become visible only when they suffer or go through extreme suffering. What kind of political subjectivity does the discourse of trauma mobilize and what other ways of being political are rendered invisible?

Given the significant role that international aid and development agencies, they play for constructing places and identity for children in Palestine, what kind of future citizens do these agencies seek to produce? What kind of future citizens do trauma relief projects targeting children produce? How do children perform, disrupt and transform the discourses of Palestinian childhood, enacting their own politics in the process?

First it should be considered that  trauma is constructed as a justification for humanitarian intervention and is also produced through those interventions. The trauma relief is defined as a potential risk to society, a risk that has to be reduced.  Trauma produces the subject of the threatened/threatening that the psychological trauma of Palestinian children go unattended, their build up negative energy will react sometimes in the future.

Trauma relief projects mobilize a particular neoliberal understanding of citizenship. While trauma originally served as a medical humanitarian justification, today trauma relief is used as a part of a resurrected post violent project of new liberal state building.

Children demonstrate agency and flexibility in creatively transforming these discourses.

Trauma originally emerged out of WW I, developed on WW II,  with the Holocaust survivors, also used to define acts of domestic abuse, violence about women, usually related to medical psychiatric condition.

Peace process has resulted in further fracturing the Palestinian land, expansion of Israeli settlements and expansion of military presence. This developed in much violent crashes between Israeli and Palestinians especially during the First and Second Intifada.

The spectacular violence during the second Intifadah was asking for international response. Trauma provided an international response for two reasons;

  1. The medical sector of Palestinian was well developed as the doctors have developed a long experience in working with psychical violence so they would not necessary require medical attention;
  2. The second reason was because trauma really search two purposed: the emphasis in trauma relief is to tell your story through the events that happen ( aid organizations could go listen to the people, so help them but, also to use the stories to travel around the world and to raise awareness towards the Palestinian situation)

The language of trauma cleared space in the global public sphere for the Palestinian Arabs to be heard. It is also important to remember that trauma delimits political agencies as well. The language of trauma risks in vandalizing Palestinians for using children as victims. This requires them to appear as simply victims and not political actors to be taken seriously, but just sympathized for their suffering. Children have been perfect examples of trauma as they are apolitical. Trauma, summed a range of disempowering practices that air to more suffering, while stories present the real truth of the consequences of the occupation.

Technologies of the self

“The self is made into a terrain of political action, a terrain that carries with it new political possibilities for the self-government” (Cruikshank 1999:5)

Is it through the self that social powers are territories and government solutions are exteriorized:

“Building self-esteem is a technology of citizenship and self-government for evaluating and acting upon ourselves so that the police, the guards and doctors do not have to” (Cruikshank 1999:91)

“Embodies encounters, are not simply perceptual, but always involve emotional, cognitive and imaginative engagement; they are always relational. Other than, perhaps, in the youngest infants, perception cannot take place without interpretation, and interpretation involves bringing into play memories, images and feelings acquires elsewhere. Thus, affective experiences of place are neither individualized nor unmediated.” ( Ansell 2009:200)

“The targeted group has suffered from political violence to educational, social and behavioral problems and to the development of negative psychological conditions. Trauma is useful into drawing attention into the hidden mentally scars which creates a medical discourse.

Threatened, intervention is needed not to prevent children from violence but to prevent others of their violence. War affected children need to find alternatives to violence and to release frustrations. Thus aid agencies encourages tolerance and peaceful expression through the use of arts and other creative activities. Also, self expression or dealing with their own problems are methods that should be taken into consideration in order to give children new confidence to take control over their lives.


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