Trauma is not solely an individual experience

In addition to individual trauma, there is also collective trauma from large-scale violence, such as the three-and-a-half-year siege of Sarajevo or the siege and then mass murder of people in Srebrenica.

We experienced four wars in the former Yugoslavia, between 1991 and 2000, each with different traumatic events. There were concentration camps and massacres. Many people were refugees. Some lived under siege for years. People risked being shot by snipers every time they went out to shop or go to work. When the war ended. . . [t]he trauma of survival shifted from running away from guns during the war to the present situation of not having enough money to feed the family and send children to school.

(Puljek-Shank 2012)

The collective dynamic of trauma can also extend to cultural and historical trauma (Alexander 2004), in which an event is contextually interpreted and becomes socially embedded into the lived experience and identity of a group. As Sinisa Malesevic (2016a) provocatively claimed, there is no nationalism without collective traumatic images or narratives; nationalism requires enormous energy and resources to translate micro-level solidarity or experiences of personal trauma into authentic national identities. Trauma can, in this and other ways, be passed to subsequent generations, such that the children and grandchildren, who have not experienced a trauma firsthand, are also somehow stuck in behavior patterns they learned or epigenetically received from their ancestors.

In the context of war, whole communities are exposed to the disruption of violent trauma. War trauma shifts social dynamics, with traditional gender roles often altered. For example, when men assume combat roles, they leave other roles vacant, such as the role of the family provider. Women and other traditionally excluded persons then fill those roles. As former combatants reintegrate socially after war, tensions can arise over this altered structure where women are engaging in economic and political spheres and are reluctant to return to their formerly designated spaces. Coupled with exposure to and perpetration of violence and lacking or absent economic opportunities, intimate partner violence is more prevalent. This perpetuates a cycle of violence in family and society that has been documented as correlated to later violence (e.g„ Bar-Tai 2003).5 There is a growing field of epigenetic and other biological research focused on transgenerational transmission and effects of trauma. Informed by the experiences and reflections of Holocaust survivors' children and grandchildren, indigenous peoples in North America and Black American descendants of slaves, this field examines how exposure to trauma, prolonged or episodic, impacts societies and the mental and physical health of future generations (Jasienska 2009; Yehuda and Lehrner 2018).

 
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