The Poetics and Politics of Intersectionality: Trauma and Memory in Caryl Phillips' The Lost Child
- ariel: A Review of International English Literature
- Johns Hopkins University Press
- Volume 52, Numbers 3-4, July-October 2021
- pp. 201-226
- Additional Information
- Purchase/rental options available:
Trauma theory has long been used to explain Eurocentric, event-based, and nationally experienced traumas like war crimes or the Holocaust. In this article, I focus on the smaller-scale tragedies of everyday life and how trauma theory can illuminate them, too, if combined with an intersectional approach. Caryl Phillips' novel The Lost Child (2015) demonstrates how the mechanisms of complex, co-effecting oppressions may turn everyday life into a series of traumatic experiences by sketching out the ambiguous and matrix-like effects of gender, race, class, ethnicity, age, cultural position, and education-related marginalization. Counter to Cathy Caruth's argument, I claim that intersectionality allows us to conceptualize a traumatic life that does not originate from a single clear event. Intersectionality's kaleidoscopic vision of trauma is able to grasp the co-constitutive effects of small, ordinary, or quotidian hurtful memories and experiences that easily fade in the face of collective, national, and commemorated traumas. Phillips' intersectional framing of individual stories highlights how individual experiences are historically, socially, and culturally mediated.