Accepted paper:

Trauma into triumphalism: affective registers of Serbian Orthodox monastics


Alice Forbess (London School of Economics)

Paper short abstract:

This paper looks at the forms of affect conjured up by monastic sites existing under the threat of violence. Taking an ontological rather than epistemological perspective, it explores trauma as a quality of 'things' – mental or physical artefacts - rather than as an abstraction, ultimately separate from the material world.

Paper long abstract:

In Kosovo and Montenegro, it is not uncommon for Orthodox monasteries to have been sites of violence for generations, and some of this continues into the present. Such landmarks 'store' and 'exude' traumatic experiences and (in the case of Kosovo) attempts to erase the memories they evoke by destroying them create further trauma. This paper looks at the affective registers through which Serbian Orthodox Monastics living under siege in such monasteries 'tame' what might be described as traumatic events. Rather than taking an epistemological view of trauma, viewing it as a category of experience that can only be fully made sense of through verbalisation and conversion into coherent representations, I take an ontological view, looking at 'trauma' as an attribute of 'things' (be it mental, physical or geographical) whose simple presence is capable of creating and reproducing certain structures of affect and thought. The informants of this paper often take traumatic things as self-referential, simply 'things to think with', in the context of an ontology that accords a central role to suffering and triumph.

panel W032
Processing trauma in (post-)conflict societies