Dionne Brand’s 2002 book of poetry, thirsty, is a site of intersection between two lines of inquiry that currently animate scholarly conversations in trauma studies; questions about the representation of traumatic experience collide with questions about the genealogy of trauma as a discourse, or with what it means to become authorized as a victim of profound rupture or violence. Here, Brand registers a deeply unsettled anxiety about the process by which a black subject becomes legible in discourses of diasporic and racialized trauma and suffering, where an individual’s pain becomes the object of empathic consumption and absolution. What Shuh-mei Shih calls “Trauma-ism” is thus an acutely de-politicizing and sentimentalizing gesture, so that Brand seems to mourn not the failure to metamorphose trauma into narrative, but the difficulty in making that act perform any real cultural or political work.


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pp. 122-138
Launched on MUSE
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