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Monday, April 6 • 5:30pm - 7:30pm
Visiting Lecturer, Presented by Phi Beta Kappa- 'Cultural Trauma, Social Solidarity, and Moral Responsibility: Reactions to the Holocaust and other Modern Mass Murders'

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The lecture will be from 5:30-6:30, with a dessert reception to follow from 6:30-7:30.

Cultural trauma occurs when members of a collectivity feel they have been subjected to a horrendous event that leaves indelible marks upon their group consciousness, marking their memories forever and changing their future identity in fundamental and irrevocable ways. While this new scientific concept clarifies causal relationships between previously unrelated events, structures, perceptions, and actions, it also illuminates a neglected domain of social responsibility and political action. By constructing cultural traumas, social groups, national societies, and sometimes even entire civilizations, not only cognitively identify the existence and source of human suffering, but may also take on board some significant moral responsibility for it. Insofar as they identify the cause of trauma in a manner that assumes such moral responsibility, members of collectivities extend solidarity in a way that allows them to share the suffering of others. Is the suffering of others also our own? In thinking that it might in fact be, societies expand the circle of the “we” and create the possibility for repairing societies to prevent the trauma from happening again. By the same token, social groups can, and often do, refuse to recognize the existence of others’ suffering, or place the responsibility for it on people other than themselves. 

After presenting cultural trauma theory, the lecture will focus on a series of case studies. Shifting postwar Western reactions to the Holocaust will be considered at length, but other trauma processes will also be examined: the anti-imperialist, American civil rights, and indigenous people’s movements; Japan’s Nanjing Massacre and its effects on contemporary relations with China and Japan; and mass murders under the Stalinist and Maoist regimes.


Dr. Jeffrey Alexander

Lillian Chavenson Saden Professor of Sociology, Yale University
Jeffrey Alexander is the Lillian Chavenson Saden Professor of Sociology at Yale University, as well as founder and co-director of the Center for Cultural Sociology.

Monday April 6, 2015 5:30pm - 7:30pm EDT
Honors, Scholars, and Fellows House- Great Hall 4th Floor, 127 Honors Way, Florida State University

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