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Transcult Psychiatry. 2008 Sep;45(3):391-414. doi: 10.1177/1363461508094673.

Rethinking historical trauma: narratives of resilience.

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  • 1Depaertment of Anthropology, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ 86011-5200, USA.


There is significant variation in how people experience, emplot and intergenerationally transmit trauma experiences. Despite this variation, the literature rarely illustrates alternative manifestations or resilient responses to the construct of historical trauma. Based upon person-centered ethnographic research, this article highlights how a four-generation American Indian family contextualizes historical trauma and, specifically, how they frame their traumatic past into an ethic that functions in the transmission of resilience strategies, family identity, and as a framework for narrative emplotment. In conclusion, the author clarifies the distinction between historical trauma--the precipitating conditions or experiences--and the historical trauma response--the pattern of diverse responses that may result from exposure to historical trauma.

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