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Is there such a thing as historical, cultural trauma?

(79 Posts)
trisher Fri 30-Oct-20 10:18:14

Bonnie Greer on QT asserted that black people carried the trauma of slavery within them and Jewish people the trauma of the holocaust. It made me wonder is there such a thing and if so how many of us must carry something? My great grandfather left Ireland because of the famine, do I carry trauma because of that? What about the descendants of those transported toAustralia do they carry trauma?
I have no doubt that their descendants will be emotionally and spiritually connected to those who suffered in the past, but can we really term it trauma?

Blinko Fri 30-Oct-20 10:25:35

A lot of very unpleasant things occurred in history, to pretty well all sections of society worldwide. It reflected the values of society at that time. That's not to say we haven't moved on.
If we do need to reflect, how far back should we go?

TerriBull Fri 30-Oct-20 10:50:09

I have a black friend, Jamaican, but came to England as a baby, older half sister lives in the US who has never lived here. My friend feels the way her sister and family live and interact is very different, insomuch as she the English sister has a lot of white friends, her American sister is amazed at that. My friend tells me that the trauma of slavery in Black Americans is very much an issue, quite understandably. Friend and I are both into genealogy, of course she hit so many brick walls because as she pointed out even their surnames were not their own but often the plantation owner. There have been several black people featured in WDYTYA who have uncovered such outcomes. I think that is quite possibly something some black people will carry with them.

I have another friend who is ethnically Chinese from Penang and told me her parents could never get past the Japanese atrocities inflicted on Malaysia when it was occupied during the War. I can quite see that anyone who has lived through an occupation and witnessed barbarism is likely to remain traumatised. She and her siblings left their place of birth and settled in various parts of the world, so possibly not as rooted to the past but still aware of it.

I also have a grandma who is part Irish and her people left Ireland in the aftermath of the Potato Famine, I don't think that's affected me other than I'm interested in it, my mother read a lot about it, in fact I have a book sitting on my bookshelf she gave me by Thomas Keneally called "The Great Shame" which I haven't got round to reading. Yes she was very aware of it and on her other side we had French who may have had to flee France during the Franco Prussian War that interests me more.

All the Jewish people I've met have lost someone in the Holocaust. I also had an Armenian neighbour who lost people in the genocide of her people at the beginning of the 20th century. I think it's all a question of how long ago such atrocities occurred and it's understandable that if those losses are among anyone's nearest and dearest the trauma will remain.

Oopsadaisy4 Fri 30-Oct-20 10:59:59

Trisher do you carry trauma and hatred for the English for what they inflicted upon your ancestors ?
If you do then it is more than likely that others will as well, no matter how long ago it is, Genealogy is a very popular subject and we can get very involved with the injustices that our ancestors had to cope with.
I’m sure if one of my distant relatives had been a slave I would still feel angry on their behalf , the thing is what to do with that anger ? We can’t change History and no amount of money will change what happened.
We have to learn from it, because there is no alternative.
My Great Uncle had his prison camp number tattooed on his arm from Poland in the Second World War , I still feel very upset on his behalf.

ExD Fri 30-Oct-20 11:01:48

It could go on for ever couldn't it? What about the so called 'Upper Classes'? Those beheaded in the French Revolution, those who were killed in the Russian purges - both the aristocrats (their king and his family were shot) and the cruel Jewish pogroms?
How far back should we go - does anyone carry trauma from the Great Plague?
Will future generations be damaged by memories of Covid 19?

Whitewavemark2 Fri 30-Oct-20 11:02:13

I think trauma continues in Jewish and black folk, because the issues involved have never stopped.

Jews still experience anti-semitism which resulted in the holocaust.

And folk of African descent still experience the form of racism that suggests that they are less than white folk.

trisher Fri 30-Oct-20 11:22:47

But Whitewavemark2 it isn't only people of African descent who experience racism because of the colour of their skin. Indian and Pakistani people are treated in a similar way. Is this somehow lessened because they don't have the "trauma" of slavery inside them?
Do we think Pritt Patel carries trauma inside her because her parents were Indian refugees from Africa?

Alexa Fri 30-Oct-20 11:27:56

Slave consciousness in the US is perpetuated not by the knowledge that your ancestors were slaves, but by ongoing unfair distribution of goods and services. Descendants of slaves are still largely poor people who as we know are also unfairly targeted by police.

Daisymae Fri 30-Oct-20 11:29:10

My father lost his whole family in the war, my mother her only sibling. My grandmother was traumatized by an event in the first world war that affected her all her life, apart from losing a beloved son in Ww2. So I reckon we as a family have suffered, like so many others. Isn't it called life?

MaizieD Fri 30-Oct-20 11:29:16

I have slave ancestry and Jewish ancestry (the Jewish bit was well established in England by the beginning of the 19th C so I'm not sure that counts). Nobody could tell that by looking at me so I suffer nothing directly.

I feel sorrow for the way that my slave ancestors were treated but greater sorrow for the way that, as WwMk2 says, folk of African descent are treated as less than white folk even today.

But I also feel the same for any racial group that is treated that way.

So, no trauma as such, but sadness.

TerriBull Fri 30-Oct-20 11:34:03

I think it's quite likely that Pakistani and Indian people may well carry the trauma of the atrocities that occurred during the upheaval of the "Partition" and from what I read about present day India it seems that the Muslims who live there are very much a persecuted minority.

Sectarianism is ever present in many parts of the world. A few weeks ago on the ITV news there was a piece to suggest there is an under reporting of the plight of the Uighur Muslims in China, the trauma of those people must be considerable.

trisher Fri 30-Oct-20 11:42:34

Alexa did you watch Grayson Perry's programme about the USA and his visit to Atlanta?

Callistemon Fri 30-Oct-20 11:50:23

What about the descendants of those transported to Australia do they carry trauma?
I've spoken to people whose ancestors were transported; what was once a cause of shame is now something to be proud of, a badge of honour.

I do wonder if there is such a thing as genetic memory.

Callistemon Fri 30-Oct-20 11:54:27

We have Huguenot ancestry and a younger family member wondered whether that was the reason some family members, including her, picked up the French language easily and the ability to speak it without an English accent.

However, I don't feel any inherent trauma.

TerriBull Fri 30-Oct-20 12:11:27

Like you Callistemon also have French Huguenot as well as some Jewish ancestry, both persecuted by Catholics, which is an irony for my family because we are predominantly Catholic.

EllanVannin Fri 30-Oct-20 12:27:05

Only if you want it to be.

MaizieD Fri 30-Oct-20 12:31:47


Only if you want it to be.

I think that you might feel differently if you are held to be a lesser human/uncivilised because of your race and the colour of your skin.

EllanVannin Fri 30-Oct-20 12:35:59

Many things are mind over matter---because IT happened.

It all depends whether you wish to bring certain subjects to the forefront of your mind and for what purpose, whether to help process and move forward or spend the rest of your life festering.

Jaberwok Fri 30-Oct-20 12:38:47

Quite E.V!! I had an Irish G.Grandmother who came to England as a young woman seeking a better life, not sure if it was all she hoped for! Another 3 times great grandmother, had an illegitimate son, clearly lived a hard and difficult life which ended in the Workhouse! Poor soul, I do feel for her, but not traumatised! Have lost various relations in both wars, including my own father! Again,very saddened, but not traumatised!!

Oopsadaisy4 Fri 30-Oct-20 12:41:01

I think too that it depends on how you were brought up, if your family are constantly telling you stories handed down through the generations of how badly your ancestors have been treated, then I think it becomes a very real issue for you.
And some people are just unable to move past it, whilst others can.

sparklingsilver28 Fri 30-Oct-20 12:51:09

Trisher I think you might find the inherited trauma theory came as a result of 9/11 in the USA. Babies of pregnant women caught up in it and surviving were subject to test to see what effect if any the event had on them. It is believed to show evidence of stress similar to that of their mother - which is not surprising.

There was also another, I believe Scandinavian, investigation into starvation (under nourished) deaths of the past and whether the same trauma levels in present day generations - and the conclusion there were.

Interesting subject and if any one knows more please let us know.

sparklingsilver28 Fri 30-Oct-20 13:22:57

Epigenetic studies reveal the reality of possibility.

biba70 Fri 30-Oct-20 13:28:34

It is a truly interesting question. Our family is massively mixed- but it is only recently that our eldest daughter and one of our nieces, have become really interested in their ancestry. Others is the family just are not interested, or rather, just do not want to know- don't want to upset their comfortable apple-cart.

They have also become very interested to the concept of 'mixed race' - as our daughters and nieces are all white, but have this beautiful exotic look, and 2 of them very curly hair. One of them was picked on the spot by the Storm agency- as she is so beautiful because of her ancestry.

Aparthheid in South Africa was so so recent- and very much alive when they were born and grew up- so it is so shocking for them to know their own close family went through all of this, their homes and lands taken, their exclusions from so many professions, and so much more.

It certainly makes you think and certainly makes you more empathetic- when you know your won ancestors, over Centuries had to go through all of this, enslavement and having to flee their home. Humility, too.

sparklingsilver28 Fri 30-Oct-20 13:34:29

Every human is made up of differing multi-nationalities, which through the generations likely to have suffered different traumas - so doesn't this inhibit a clearly identifiable one cause?

growstuff Fri 30-Oct-20 13:43:48

It involves songs, poetry, story telling and religion too, many of which become part of a people's culture.

Closer to home, ask many Irish people about their history - not just recent history such as the "troubles", but going back to the times before Ireland was split. Somebody on here wrote that they'd like to see the island of Ireland as one country, but I don't think many loyalists would agree.