The recovery of historical memory

Du Bois argued that the methods used by our Black ancestors to fight slavery and oppression can be put to use in present struggles against racism. Before we can recover historical memory in a therapeutic context, we have to do something quite radical within the ‘psy’ field: to politicise the concept of memory. The recent global growth in the field of trauma work is indicative of the common understanding of trauma as a ‘thing’ that overwhelms the mind, significantly impacting on the mind’s ability to remember and process information normally. This growing popularity focuses on technical approaches to reducing the ‘symptoms’ of trauma rather than firmly locating forms of distress and forms of resistance in their political, social, cultural and historical context. My aim is not to disprove any set of ideas but to explore how a focus on power, resistance and liberation might change some of the ways we come to understand and work with memory.

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