ABSTRACT

In The Empire of Trauma: An Enquiry into the Condition of Victimhood (2009), Didier Fassin and Richard Rechtman document a paradigm shift that, they argue, has taken place in contemporary culture over the last century. Starting from the widely accepted view that our Western world is currently dominated by the trauma paradigm, and that individuals and groups are apprehended as susceptible to wounding, Fassin and Rechtman go on to address the ways in which the attitude of the authorities and of common citizens towards trauma victims has changed from one of suspicion to one of sympathy over the last century. As Angela Locatelli notes in Chapter 9 of this volume, “[t]hey further define the result of this change primarily in terms of the shift from a politics of illegitimacy to a politics of reparation (page later). Locatelli’s chapter endorses and further develops Fassin and Rechman’s theorisation of this shifting perception of the victims and of the changing norms of recognition presiding over the modalities and values of their visibility. By contrast, Ángeles de la Concha’s contribution in Chapter 4, approaches Fassin and Rechman’s theorisation from a much more critical perspective, bringing to the fore the patriarchal bias underlying some of their premises and conclusions. Put together, these two chapters provide a paradigmatic example of the main aim of this volume, which is to trace the emergence of what we have called “a literature of victimhood and other forms of vulnerability” as the expression of this new, more positive attitude to trauma victims detected by Fassin and Rechman and gaining momentum in English speaking countries since the 1990s.