Lamia Moghnie

Wednesday, 15 November 2017, 5.00 pm - 6.30 pm |
Forum Transregionale Studien, Wallotstr. 14, 14193 Berlin

Trauma Politics and the Psychologization of War and Violence in Lebanon

Lamia Moghnieh

(EUME Fellow 2017/18)

Chair: Sonja Mejcher-Atassi
(AUB / Fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg 2017/18)

The incorporation of psychiatry into humanitarian action in the late 70s, and the introduction of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) into American psychiatry’s Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM) in 1981, have turned trauma into a global and category of suffering and a moral testimonial of violence. In this talk, Moghnieh addresses the psychologization of violence in Lebanon and the politics of war trauma as introduced by humanitarian psychiatry (Fassin & Rechtman 2010).

In 1982, following the Israeli invasion, the World Health Organization began a series of assessments to diagnose and treat trauma in Lebanon. Yet, despite the widespread violence, psychiatrists were unable to find traumatized subjects, while in Israel trauma from the war became prolific. This inability to find traumatized subjects in Lebanon was again registered after the 2006 July War. But the Syrian revolution and the succeeding refugee crisis in 2012, followed by new wars and the arrival of new aid communities to Lebanon, radically transformed the politics of trauma in the country.

By focusing on specific ethnographic and historical accounts of trauma from 1982 to 2012, Moghnieh will unpack the politics of suffering from war by presenting the various debates and contestations on trauma in Lebanon. Her aim is to analyze this ‘absence of trauma’ not through the lens of cultural constructionism – as if looking at how trauma can manifest differently in various cultures –­ but by reading this absence as ideologically and materially produced in relation to war and aid. By highlighting the materiality of suffering and the political implications behind the absence of trauma in Lebanon, she invites a rethinking of suffering as a subject position contingent on aid ecologies and the nature of violence.

Lamia Moghnieh received her PhD in Social Work and Anthropology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She also holds an MA in Social Science from the University of Chicago and an MA in Psychology from the American University of Beirut. In her dissertation “Humanitarian Psychology in War and Postwar Lebanon: Violence, Therapy and Suffering”, she examines the humanitarian process of psychologizing suffering from war and displacement from Israel’s invasion in 1982 to the Syrian Refugee crisis in 2012. Based on 18 months of ethnographic fieldwork, this research looks at how humanitarian psychology — a new form of expertise — sought to produce therapeutic subjects that both experts and communities in Lebanon contested, appropriated and negotiated. In 2016/17, Moghnieh was a postdoctoral fellow of the Arab Council for the Social Sciences (ACSS), affiliated with the SOAM department at the American University of Beirut. She recently took part in a collective special issue publication in Contemporary Levant on “Ethnography as Knowledge in the Arab Region”, contributing a paper on “The Violence We Live In: Reading and Experiencing Violence in the Field” (2:1, 2017, 24-36). In the academic year 2017/18, she is a EUME Fellow.

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