Trauma and Group Identity


What follows is three day’s worth of entries from my philosophical journal, first written on the dates indicated, occasioned by my reading of Cultural Trauma and Collective Identity, by sociologists Jeffrey C. Alexander, Ron Eyerman, Bernhard Giesen, Neil J. Smelser, and Piotr Sytompka (University of California Press, 2004).

Readers interested in the topic of trauma and group identity might also want to compare what I say below to what I  say in entries posted earlier concerning the notion of what sociologist Sudhir Kakar calls “founding traumas.”  (See the index and tags for this blogsite.)

With regard to the whole endeavor to differentiate between “individual,” “social,” and “cultural” trauma, as Alexander and the other authors of Cultural Trauma and Collective Identity try to do, my own sense is that all trauma is mediated by all  three dimensions, individual, social, and cultural, at once.  As Alexander and his colleagues themselves insist, no event is traumatic solely by virtue of its objective properties or characteristics.  Only insofar as an event is “symbolically mediated,” as we might put it at least provisionally, can it have traumatic impact.  Such symbolic mediation, however, is itself always a matter of an inextricable overlapping of individual, social, and cultural factors.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The introduction, “Toward a Theory of Cultural Trauma,” is by Alexander, who starts off this  way (p. 1):  “Cultural trauma occurs when members of a collectivity feel they have been subjected to a horrendous event that leaves indelible marks upon their group consciousness, marking their memories forever and changing their future identity in fundamental and irrevocable ways.”

He talks about “lay trauma theory”–and the academic versions of it he takes to be psychoanalytic and other accounts–committing “the naturalistic fallacy” of thinking that events, “in and of themselves, create collective trauma.”  He and his collegues base their approach on the rejection of this “fallacy” and the counter-assertion (p. 8), “Events are not inherently traumatic. Trauma is a socially mediated attribution.”  [Note from 3/30/09:  The point I  am making here in my journal is not that being traumatic is  some  sort of “natural” characteristic that certain events have and other lack.  As already mentioned above in my introductory remarks to today’s post, I agree with Alexander and his coauthors in rejecting that idea completely.  My point, rather, is that he is perhaps setting up a straw-man here, since I am inclined to think that no reasonable reading of what in he calls “lay trauma theory,” in either its common or its academic manifestation, can attribute such a “naturalistic” construction to that “theory.”]

In the same paragraph he does manage to say one thing good, though I reject his contextualization of it [for reasons indicated in my parenthetical remark below, after the quotation]:  “Sometimes, in fact, events that are deeply traumatizing may not actually have occurred at all; such imagined events, however, can be as traumatizing as events that have actually occurred.”  (Who’s being fallaciously “naturalistic” now?)

Though he doesn’t do so, one could unfold such an insight into an account of the truth of “false” memories!

P. 10:  “For traumas to emerge at the level  of the  collectivity, social crises must become cultural crises.  Events are one thing, representations of these events quite another.  Trauma is not the result of a group experiencing pain.  It is the  result of this acute discomfort entering into the core of the collectivity’s sense of its own identity.”  Although he does not seem to realize how naive and reductionistic is the very rigidity of the distinction that he is trying to draw between “event” and “representation,” what he says here can be salvaged.  But then he adds this, which his use of quotes around “decides” shows he himself already at least dimly perceives to be a very questionable formulation:  “Collective actors ‘decide’ to represent social pain as a fundamental threat to their sense of who they are, where they came from, and where they want to go.”

Friday, August 1, 2008

In Cultural Trauma, Neil J. Smelser, “Psychological and Cultural Trauma” (ch. 2 of the book), p. 34, cites Freud from a work originally of 1896 ([by the reference given,] “Further Remarks on the Neuro-psychoses of Defense,”  pp. 162-185 in 3rd vol. of Standard Edition [of Freud’s works], p. 148 (which pagination would actually fit within what the authors of Cultural Trauma and Collective Identity give in their bibliography as an earlier piece in that same third volume of Freud, namely, “Heredity and Aetiology of the Neuroses”) concerning how hysteria, though at that time Freud thought it was grounded in an original trauma of sexual incest abuse, can be triggered by “emotional disturbances, physical, exhaustion, acute illness, intoxications, traumatic accidents, intellectual overwork, etc..”  Freud says these are not the cause, but are just “agents provocateurs,” but that–and here’s what I find of interest, really–“practical interest attaches to them, for a consideration of these stock causes may offer lines of approach to which a therapy which does not aim at a radical cure and is content with repressing the illness to a former state of latency” [might fruitfully attend] (my italics).

Just so were “war neuroses” treated in WW I and WW II:  Get them back to the front to be cannon fodder ASAP.

Glossing this and similar passages, Smelser writes:  “. . . even in Freud’s preliminary formulations, the idea of trauma is not to be conceived so much as a discrete causal event as a part of  a process-in-system.  To put the conclusion in its briefest form, trauma entails some conception of system.”

Among the conditions for something to be a “cultural trauma,” Smelser says (p. 36):

It must be remembered, or made to be remembered.  Furthermore, the memory must be made culturally relevant, that is, represented as obligating, damaging, or rendering problematic something sacred  –usually a value or outlook felt to be essential for the integrity of the affected society.  Finally, the memory must be associated with a strong negative affect, usually disgust, shame, or guilt.

Leaving aside how he (and his coauthors) [may] themselves [be to some extent] caught in a sort of “lay trauma theory” (as Alexander labels it), in accordance with which the traumatic is always seen as negative–and leaving aside, in general, the question of the adequacy and accuracy of his criteria–his next remark, which attempts to give clarifying examples, shows at least one crucial  problem with how all these sociologists are proceeding in this volume:  the problem of who is to be taken as the “subject” or “victim” of the “cultural” trauma, in effect–and how one must work to keep the identification of that “subject” (the “culture” at issue) free from racial, sexual, class, or other bias.  Thus, he writes:

Looking at the sweep  of American history, the memory of  the  institution of  slavery appears to qualify most unequivocally as a cultural trauma [Only if the “culture” is white, given what he  goes on to use as a counter-example, as I’ll get to in a minute!], because it comes close to meeting those three conditions.  The seizure of Native Americans’ lands and the partial [!  No more and no less than the Nazi extermination of the Jews was “partial”!] extermination of their populations is another example, but at the present time its status as trauma is not as secured as it is for slavery.

Oh?  It is surely no less “secured” as a trauma for “Native Americans” than slavery is for African-Americans!  Again, it’s only if one assumes that “American” culture is white culture that his examples work–at least in the way he lays them out.

P. 36:  As opposed to a society (and there can be “social” trauma, as well as “cultural” trauma [according to this author]), “a culture can be defined as a grouping of elements–values, norms, outlooks, beliefs, ideologies, knowledge and empirical assertions (not always verified), linked to one another to some degree as a meaning-system.”

P. 40:  Concerning the sort of “vicarous traumatization” that can come from hearing the stories of others’ traumas (as is common among therapists and, by the way, exemplified by Rivers in Pat Barker’s [Regeneration] Trilogy), he writes:

This principle also explains why individuals who are passively watching or reading thrilling, gripping, or frightening movies or books can be temporarily “traumatized” by them even though they are completely fictional.  They attach the affects that would have been excited by actual events to fictional situations.  This implies further that trauma can be experienced by attaching appropriate affects to imagined situations.

This whole approach has concealed presuppositions I find very questionable (even if not questioned, they should be acknowledged).  At the root, for one thing, if all trauma is  ultimately the precipitation, in effect, of structural “faulting,” then the whole distinction between “real” and “fictitious” events becomes insignificant, and the very idea of “vicarous” trauma is undercut:  that traumatization, as the surfacing of structural fault–Lacan’s”bone in the throat”–is infectious, does not say the same as that it can be acquired or experienced “vicarously.”

Monday, August 4, 2008

Ch. 4 of Cultural Trauma, Bernhard Giesen, “the Trauma of Perpetrators:  the Holocaust as the Traumatic Reference of German National Identity,” P. 534:

In contrast to the [Willy] Brandt [then Chancellor of West Germany] gesture in 1970 [when he spontaneously knelt in silence at the memorial at the Warsaw ghetto], [later West German Chancellor Helmut] Kohl [at Bitburg with Reagan in 1985 at the German war cemetery] did not take on collective guilt, but tried to disperse it in the intractable space of history or to change it to demons, thereby reviving the postwar narrative of the seduced [German] nation.  But remembrance and repentance cannot be separated if the collective identity of perpetrators is  involved  [my italics].  Representing the nation in a ritual of repentance in a believable way is fostered by the innocence of the representative as a person.  Kohl failed to see the opportunity in what he presented as an excuse.

Reflections on Memory, Trauma, and Politics, #4


The following is the sixth in the series of seven entries, made earlier in my philosophical journal, that pertain to Duncan Bell’s edition of essays by various contributors in Memory, Trauma, and World Politics (Pallgrave Macmillan, 2006).  The entry posted below concerns two different articles in Bell’s collection, both by European professors of international relations.  I address the first, by Jens Bartleson, only briefly, then the second, by K. M. Fierke, at greater length.  


Sunday, May 5, 2008

Jens Bartleson (Professor of International Relations in the Department of Political Science at the University of Copenhagen), “We Could Remember for You Wholesale:  Myths, Monuments and the Constitution of National Memories” (in Bell,pp. 33-53), from the last paragraph of the article (p. 53): 

“[What happened to us with the rise and fall of the nation state has left us] as traumatized by the experience of nationhood as we are by the expectations of its demise.  As long as we rely on collective memories as a source of personal identity, we will inevitably face a certain loss of self whenever those collective memories are strategically rearranged to cater to  new political concerns.  The prospective loss of national identity looks scary indeed, yet our sense of personal identity will inevitably remain fragile so long as we seek to derive it from belonging to a community thus constituted.  There is neither a past nor a future that can provide the anchor points for individual or collective identity anymore, since what has been fractured in the present is any connection between memory and identity.  To some, this will pave the  way for a brave new world of individualized memories. . . If this is  the  case, we would then cease to be what we remember and start to remember who we are.”

And then, indeed, we may start to remember the political,  as opposed to politics, and enter into that “coming community”–that community of the always not yet future–wherein the only thing we have in common is the fact that we all die:  the genuinely open community of we who are alone together in the face of death.


K. M. Fierke (she is Professor of International Relations at the University of St. Andrews in Great Britain), “Bewitched by the Past:  Social Memory, Trauma and International Relations” (pp. 116-134 in Bell), first page (116)of her essay, mentions (as do others in Bell) “Maurice Halbwacks, who, through a concept of collective memory explores how present concerns determine what past we remember and how we remember it.  In this theory [which is actually that of Peter Novick, she says, in The Holocaust and Collective Memory–London: Bloomsbury, 1999], collective memory is ahistorical in so far as it simplifies and is impatient with any kind of ambiguity, reducing events to  mythic archetypes.  Memory in this conception denies the ‘pastness’ of its objects and insists on their continuing presence.  [My emphasis.]  A memory once established defines an eternal truth and identity for members of a group.”

I  would read the italicized line at least partly against the grain of her own apparent reading [by interpreting it as follows]:  The manipulation of the traumatic past (A pleonasm?) to form “collective memory” reduces the past, which, as [William] Faulkner says, “isn’t over, it isn’t even past,” to a past present–reduces time to an “image of eternity” [Plato’s line]–and, therewith, reduces the present to that vanishing point between what “was” but “is no longer” and what “will be” but “is not yet.”

A page later (124), she comes back to this (mistaken, I’m saying) idea, after citing a case I’ll come back to in a moment.  She treats the repetition [involved in] that case as follows:  “The victim in the one world [in the case at issue, a father who survived the Holocaust, “in” the world of which he was victim] later does to himself and to others what was done to  him [as this father ends up doing to his daughter], as a way of staying involved with a (now absent) perpetrator [which notion of victim identification with perpetrator I would also reject] or reproducing a (now absent) abusive terrain.”

Against [such a] reading:  The distinction between “historical” and “structural” trauma [e.g., in LaCapra]–[or,] as I’d recast it:  between triggering/signifying/activating occurrence and the underlying traumatism it triggers/signifies/activates–lets us realize that neither “perpetrator” nor “abuse” are “now absent” at all!  It is precisely the reduction of the “perpetration” of the “abuse” to a datable, and now dated, now “past,” event/occurrence that locks the “victim” into a sort of endless “eternal now.”  It is precisely because the underlying abusiveness of the situation remains ignored and silenced that it–that very abusive situation [itself]–can only perpetuate itself endlessly.

The case she cites is this (p. 123), from psychiatrist James Glass (Private Terror/Public Life:  Psychosis and the Politics of Community–Ithaca:  Cornell University Press, 1989):  A case in which “a Holocaust survivor passed on a set of meanings and relational patterns, acquired in the concentration camp [Acquired there?  Or already aquired long before, by birth into the sort of riven, non-communal community that was/is what passed/passes for community in that/this day?], to his  daughter Ruth.  As Ruth was growing up, she was never allowed to express suffering or pain.  If she did, she was told that her suffering could never compare to that in the camps and was thus of little consequence.  The father also replicated the communicative patterns of his Nazi tormentors [Indeed he did!  But not via “identifying” with them!  Rather, because such replication/reproduction of abuse is/was the very structure of the situation in which he continued/continues to find himself] in relating to his daughter, ordering her to ‘perform this, do that, be obedient, stay invisible, don’t get in the way’.  As a result, she never experienced home as place of  safety or security.  She dealt with this acquired worthlessness [one into which, I’d insist, she was born!] by dissociating the ideal public self she presented to the world from the miserable human being she felt herself to be.  The two selves are not distinguished by conscous and unconscious.  [Granted!]  Instead, they are two conflicting self-representations [Yet one of the two “selves”is not represented at all!  That’s the difference!] in which the public self is dissociated from the private self. By the time she was hospitalized for psychosis, she had entered into the world of 1943, without ever having been there physically.  [But that’s just where she’s been “physically,” given the abuse she’s received from her father!  The whole idea Fierke has here, of “the world” of a given date as itself “past” “in reality,” needs to be overturned!]  The beds of hospital became barracks, the staff were SS guards and Kapos.  Her therapist was Josef Mengele, waiting for  the right moment to do experiments on her brain.”  Indeed, that was just who these folks were, in the world Ruth inhabited!  It would be worthwhile to compare this case with that of Artie and his father in Maus.  The two cases have the same structure.

Then Fierke gives a longish citation from “Ruth’s narrative while in hospital” (Bell, pages 123-124), the last lines of which are:  “Is it 1983, 1943?  Does it make any difference?  Is anyone around here human?” 

Ruth may be psychotic, but she’s not stupid!  Does it make any difference?  Isn’t it still “1943”?  Just as 1984 is 1948 [when Orwell’s novel 1984 first appeared] is “now”?

After her remark about the “now absent” perpetrator and abuse, Fierke writes:  “that the daughter could enter into her father’s trauma [She is born into it!], as if [!!  Hardly a mere “as if”!  She is there!] she were reliving the pattern of interaction he had passed on to her [here, Fierke is quite right]. . . . The father did not narrate the story of his experience in the camps as past [and it is not past:  those who do so narrate it, as a past over and done with–just what Jean Améry refused to countenance!–are those who, in a certain sense, suffer from “false memory syndrome”–false and falsifying memory!]; rather he continued to live [unlike those of false and falsifying memory who continue to be dead!] within the linguistic [and far more than merely linguistic!] boundaries of that world.”

In traumatic repetition, says Fierke (P. 125):  “Far from being forgotten, the past is  continually relived in the present.  At the same time, as this past world becomes habitual, there is a forgetting of the uniqueness of the original event. [But there is no “original event” of trauma, insofar as trauma is always structural; and, thus, the very equation of trauma with “an original  event” that has “uniqueness”–i.e., is just an occurrence the occurring of which consigns what occurs to a date–is what forgets the trauma!]  This contrasts with the narrative memory where the self stands outside the past in the present and provides a representation of events gone by.”  I’d say against her, reduces events to what merely “passes by!  The end of the next paragraph, same page:  “Political trauma can be understood as the state in which fear and hypervigilance become habitual.”  No!  When fear and hypervigilance become habitual, political trauma–that is, the opening  of  a gap wherein the genuinely political can at last emerge, restructuring the entire situation–is not allowed.


Fierke, p. 127, on Ben Gurion around and in connection with the Eichmann trial, creating the connection of Israel to the Holocaust:  “The experience of the Holocaust was woven into Israeli identity, rather than distancing it in the  past.”

Given her discussion to this point, what she is doing  here–no doubt unknowingly enough–is conflating such Holocaust victims as Ruth’s father repeating the trauma [on one hand] with someone manipulating and exploiting the Holocaust to construct collective memory [on the other].  It would be the same as equating Bush with one of the survivor victims of 9/11.

She herself goes on to  note, in fact:  “Hitler himself called on the trauma of defeat in the first World War and the humiliation  of the Versailles treaty, in mobilizing an existential threat to German society, to the end of making Germany great once again.”  She prefaces that with a remark of how Milosevic used the same sort of manipulation of memories to justify Serbian aggression in the 1990s.  She goes on, after the remark about Hitler, as follows [pp. 127-128]:

“The United States Bush administration post-11 September 2001 and leading up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, made a discursive link between Iran and  the terrorist attacks, a link which lacked evidence in fact.  This was part of articulating an existential threat to America itself, despite, as was later revealed, the absence of any weapons of mass destruction capability on the part of Sadam Hussein.  While these very different contexts are by no  means equivalent [Why not, exactly?], they all relied on similar semantic and logical connections that were retained and repeated and became the container of past memory.  [So at least in that regard they are equivalent!]”

As she correctly goes on to note, “While distorted, the salience of the discursive move [in such cases] is dependent on a context of past experience. . . . [C]ollective anxiety is never purely a product of elite intervention or manipulation, although there is an element of this. The discursive moves are only effective if they respond to deep and genuine social concerns in a time of general malaise, that is, a population has to be receptive to  manipulation.”

Her qualifications are uncalled for here, and just weaken the point of the very observation she is making–which point is no more an no less than that there must first be a trauma before trauma can be manipulatively exploited in the construction of collective memory. 

P. 130 she uses the expression “a politics of trauma,” which is an apt name for the sort of manipulative exploitation of trauma she’s just been discussing.  A politics of trauma is the forgetting of the trauma of the political–a forgetting in the service of the perpetuation of abuse (oppression).


P. 131:  “In the political world, denial, rather than a function of unconscious repression [as it is in Freud], can be understood as a political act for the  purpose of creating a unity of interpretation . . . which require[s] the suppression of alternative memories.”

Indeed!  And such suppression is then not comparable at all to repression and denial in Freud’s sense.  They are two very different things.  The suppression directly intended by such a “political act” of the forced universalization of a single interpretation is, in fact, a manipulative exploitation of the very repression and denial that are an inseparable part of trauma. That’s why, for example, Bush is already calling for a moment of silence to memorialize the victims of 9/11 even before the towers have fallen and the planes have crashed in Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon.

She continues:  “While this process involved an element of repression, it did not require psychological denial.  What is repressed is difference, debate or alternative narratives of the past.”  But this is not re-pression at all!  It is simply sup-pression, as she just said in what I’ve already cited above.

She ends this paragraph so:  “Individuals may be inclined, in a repressive situation [she means op-pressive and sup-pressive], to adopt an interpretation akin to that of the authorities, in order to  survive or avoid conflict, but this  is not the same as repression an in unconscious.”  It most certainly is not.  But the sort of situation she describes should also be carefully distinguished from cases in which those who are oppressed are not even granted the possibility of articulating their oppression clearly–in cases where they are denied any language in which to speak their oppression, as occurs when the “common,” shared language is hijacked as has so largely happened today, when public discourse can only be  formulated in terms that implant an unacknowledgeable prejudgment in favor of the  right wing (e.g., “color blind,” “reverse discrimination,” “illegal aliens,” “special rights,” etc.).

Insofar as the powers that be control even the means and media of communication, suppression and oppression reach the zone of such a maximum–the maximum of the closure of the trauma of the political, the gap granting place for the political, as opposed  to politics, to take place.

Reflections on Memory, Trauma, and Politics, #3


Below are two more entries I first made in my philosophical journal on the dates indicated.  They are the fourth and fifth of a series of seven consecutive entries addressing some of the articles in the collection Memory, Trauma, and World Politics, edited by Duncan Bell (Pallgrave Macmillan, 2006). 


Thursday, May 1, 2008

In Bell, pp. 74-95, by Jeffrey K. Olick and Charles Demetriou, “From Theodicy to Ressentiment:  Trauma and the  Ages of Compensation.”  [I seriously question] their reading of Nietzsche’s Genealogy.  [They seem to me to do an equally questionable] discussion of Scheler, and even worse of Arendt.  Only on [author and Holocaust survivor Jean] Améry are they good.  Overall, [I think] the article is a botched attempt at revalorizing the notion of ressentiment–which should, in fact, be left its stench.


Friday, May 2, 2008

In Bell (pp. 54-73), historian  Jay Winter, “Notes on the Memory Boom:  War, Remembrance and the Uses of the Past,” pp. 58-59, quoting Ernst Renan’s “series of lectures in Paris in 1882–entitled ‘What is a nation?'”: 

“A nation is a soul, a spiritual principle.  Two things, which, in truth, are really one, constitute this soul,this spiritual principle.  One is in the past, the other in the present.  One is the possessing in common of a rich legacy of memories, the other is the present-day consent, the desire to live together, the will to  continue to value the individual heritage one has received . . . To have the glory of the past in common, a shared will in the present; to have done great deeds together, and want to do more of them, are the essential conditions for the  constituion  of a people . . . One loves the house which one has built and  passes on.”

Winter comments:  “Such ideas and images were commonplace in late nineteenth century Europe.  What was much newer were powerful means to disseminate them.  Writers on memory reached a much wider audience thatn  ever before.  The expansion of the print trade, the art market, the leisure industry, and the mass circulation press allied to  developments first in photography and then in cinematography, created powerful conduits for the dissemination of texts, images and narratives of the past in every part of Europe and beyond.”

The passage from Renan points to this:  such “collective”or “community” memories are false memories–[but not] in the same sense at issue in [so called] “false memory syndrome”:  They are both manufactured  images, [but the first sort of “memory,” the sort Renan writes about, are] based on and utilize the manipulation of memory and of trauma itself for  some  purpose arrived at by the manipulator, [“collective” as that manipulator may be,] whether conscious or not.

In contrast, “screen memories,” properly so called, issue from the trauma itself, as part of the mechanism  of repression.  Thus, they “screen” in the double sense of hiding or covering over, and of providing a “surface” upon which trauma may project itself.

Sometimes, paradoxically, the very phenomenon of a sort of hyper-real image [of a traumatic occurrence] compulsively recurs and is a common sign of “dissociation,” thereby masking and indicating (at one and the same time) the underlying trauma, serving the very same “repression” of trauma that  is served by “screen memories.”  So such hyper-real images are functionally still “screen memories” [themselves].

The key distinction is between the job of repressing and [that of] manipulating a trauma and the like.

Supposedly “false memories,” in the sense [at issue in so called] “false memory syndrome,” are a form of “screen” memory in the double sense (hide, and give a surface upon which what is hidden projects itself0, as are, too, the hyper-real memories of, for instance, recurrent nightmares or “flashbacks.”

The sort of collective memory Renan describes, however, is not a “screen,” but is manufactured, a product of the manipulation of trauma for the ends of the manipulator.

Trauma and Identity (“Cultural” and “Individual”): Reflections on Sudhir Kakar’s Work


Both the journal entry below and the one I will post next concern psychoanalyst Sudhir Kakar’s The Colors of Violence, his important and influential analysis of Hindu-Muslim violence in his native India.  Especially important for me is his idea of how “founding traumas” function in establishing religion-based cultural identities in conflict with other such identities based on the very same “founding trauma,” only vastly differently interpreted.  It is easy to discern just such a shared “founding trauma” differently interpreted at work in the way “September 11, 2001,” functions in the conflictual genesis of both Arab “Jihadist” and American “anti-terrorist” extremist identities.  

From my perspective, which considerably overlaps Kakar’s own, in my judgment, and which finds its first articulation in the pages of my journal in the entry below, the (no doubt largely “unconscious”) use of trauma to serve as the foundation for such religious/cultural identity formation is actually a matter of the manipulative avoidance of trauma, as opposed both to the dissociative repression and the healing processing of trauma .  It is, as I first try to formulate it below, a coercive move to block trauma from traumatizing–and, therefore, a reactionary effort at forestalling the transformative and healing action that can occur only through letting such traumatization work itself through.  Other entries I  will eventually post on this site in the coming weeks will explore that idea much more fully.    

Here is the first of two entries, then, on Kakar’s The Colors of Violence:


Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sudhir Kakar, The Colors of Violence:  Cultural Identities, Religion, and Conflict (University of Chicago Press, 1996), p. 150:  “Cultural identity, like its individual counterpart, is an unconscious human acquirement which becomes consciously salient only when there is a perceived threat to its integrity.  Identity, both individual and collective, lives itself for the most part, unfettered and unworried by obsessive and excessive scrutiny.”

Yet what if identity itself is one struck in the first place–as one “strikes” (= mints) a coin–by the trauma at issue, such that the appearance  of identity having already been there all along (but only “unconsciously,” as “lived”) becomes a fiction founding (= a founding fiction [of]) identity formation?  Doesn’t Kakar himself touch on something of the sort when he immediately  continues as follows:  “Everyday living incorporates a zone of indifference with  regard to  one’s culture, including  one’s language, ethnic origin, or  religion”?  What is that, if not indifference toward one’s “cultural identity”?  So it would be an indifference toward, precisely, and “identity” not one’s own, which is to say [an identity that] is not one’s identity at all.  Or:  Only in reaction/as reaction to trauma does any “cultural identity,” any self-identification (= identifying of one’s self) with one’s “culture,” form/get cast or created or fictioned at all.  then “cultural identity”–or, for that matter, even “individual identity”–would be a reactive formation designed to ward off the trauma at issue.  And then, too, only the collapse of that reaction/reactive formation would at last let the trauma traumatize:  let the truth that flashes there “materialize” (Badiou’s corps).