Trauma, gender and performance : theorizing the body of the survivor
My thesis emerges out of the new disciplines of trauma studies and gender theory, both of which explore the coming into being of the subject. The traumatic event is that which overwhelms the subject and cannot be integrated into a sense of self Gender theory explores the ways in which woman is positioned as object in the patriarchal culture, and so cannot fully experience herself as subject. Both disciplines have mobilized narrative as a goal - narrative depends upon the adoption of a position as subject. I aim to theorize the body of the survivor of trauma and to explore the means by which the traumatic symptom might be transformed into narrative. Post-1980 psychiatrists have linked the traumatic symptom to the work of Pierre Janet (1859- 1947) on hysteria. Janet regarded the body as inseparable from consciousness and was concerned with the ways in which the whole organism engaged in the performance of activity. Janet's writing stood at the beginning of a tradition of thought on the 'body image', in which the performance of activity on a psycho-physical level was regarded as the basis of subjectivity. I am interested in mobilizing this theoretical framework as a therapeutic strategy for trauma. Through bodily movement, elements of narrative are explored - temporal sequence and flow, occupying new positions or perspectives - as a means of approach to a more integrated sense of self I also propose to conceptualize the gendering of the subject as a mode of somatic performance. The transformative potential of physical movement provides a means by which the objectified body, which is positioned outside of its own intentionality, can explore the possibility of occupying new positions as a subject.