What does it mean to be traumatized? Like other contested medical keywords with which it is intimately intertwined, such as pain, the concept of trauma has raised, and continues to raise, complicated debates over relationships between medical diagnoses and broader cultural categories, between events and memories, and between individuals and collectives. Within the health humanities, questions of trauma have tended to concentrate on studies of formal diagnostic criteria—that is, what defines real trauma and who gets to count as authentically traumatized. And as is more broadly the case with medical categories, definitions and diagnoses of trauma are specific to time and place. Indeed, contrary to some clinicians’ depictions of “trauma” as a universal and transhistorical phenomenon, scholars in the health humanities generally seek to locate trauma, its meanings, and its treatment within particular historical and cultural contexts. Ongoing debate over those meanings highlights the continuing power of medical authority.

This essay may be found on page 207 of the printed volume.

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