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Title: From the ashes of history : trauma, national identity and state-building in India and Israel
Author: Lerner, Adam Benjamin
ISNI:       0000 0004 8508 2382
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2020
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Despite violence’s enormous role in international politics, mainstream International Relations (IR) scholarship tends to focus primarily on its immediate impacts on the balance of power, neglecting the lingering impact of trauma. In recent years, a vibrant (albeit inchoate) literature has developed on trauma’s legacy in international politics, but it has largely focused on trauma’s sociocultural impacts in Western contexts, neglecting how trauma’s material reification can exacerbate its effects in developing societies. This thesis theorizes collective trauma holistically as a vital force in international politics, embedded in the inequalities, injustices and institutions that define the international system. It begins by theorizing identity discourses as comprised of competing narrations of memory (including traumatic memory). The identity narratives that constitute these discourses weave together experience and knowledge, bridging the divide between the individual and the social to create the logics of policymaking. The second chapter explains how collective traumas complicate identity discourses due to the complexities inherent in their narration. The thesis then turns to two case studies of post-independence developing states that demonstrate this theorization’s utility in analysis. First, I argue that, in post-independence India, economic nationalist discourse interpreted the diverse suffering imperialism generated as a collective trauma. This trauma’s narration legitimated a consensus logic that autarky was vital to India’s security, influencing foreign economic policymaking for decades. Next, I examine the role of Holocaust memory in Israeli foreign policy discourse after independence. I argue that the 1961 trial of Adolf Eichmann augured a shift in this discourse from official repression to what I term ‘victimhood nationalism’, an identity that drew on collective trauma to legitimate the projection of grievances onto Israel’s enemies in the Arab world. The thesis concludes by reflecting on how deeper understanding of trauma studies’ diverse interdisciplinary insights can further existing debates in international politics and history, as well as how examination of trauma’s macro-political dimensions can further the field of trauma studies.
Supervisor: Fennell, Shailaja ; Bell, Duncan Sponsor: Cambridge Commonwealth ; European & International Trust
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: collective trauma ; International Relations theory ; India ; Israel ; Identity ; international politics ; discourse analysis