Deakin University, Waterfront Geelong
12-14 July 2006

Theme: Trauma, Historicity, Philosophy

The topic of trauma was raised to the centre of twentieth century European thought by Sigmund Freud, particularly in his work after the First World War. Yet, as the earlier work of Hannah Arendt or, more recently, Giorgio Agamben's and Alain Badiou's writings emphasise, the last century was a century of traumas: the traumas of world war, of economic crises, of state-sanctioned genocides, of displaced and stateless peoples, the cold war and the nuclear cloud. A sense of trauma pervades much twentieth century European thought. Heidegger, following Kierkegaard, elevates angst to a kind of privileged phenomenological instance. Levinas speaks of the trauma or "traumatism" that attends the ethical encounter with the Other. Adorno and Benjamin each conceive of history as importantly "one single catastrophe", from the Stone Age to the age of total war. Lacan founds his conception of a 'decentered' subject upon a properly traumatic event. Lyotard and Jameson differently highlight the primacy of an aesthetic of the sublime to "postmodernism". Post-war European thought indeed increasingly comes to address itself to what is exceptional, sublime or different -- that which, when it is not expressly traumatic, is inassimilable to metaphysical, political or administrative calculation. Today we are being served notice by the news media and politicians that we live under the threat or the sign of a new kind of trauma, that of global terror(ism). Attempts to come to terms with this trauma occupy increasing amounts of public space and political debate. Today's post-secular turn in different theoretical paradigms, meanwhile, is doubled by the more troubling rise of forms of religious fundamentalism across the globe, movements whose visions are steeped in traumatic recollection and pre-millenial foreboding.

Keynote Speakers

  • Professor Robert Pippin, University of Chicago
  • Professor Agnes Heller, New School for Social Research
  • Emeritus Professor Gyorgy Markus, University of Sydney

A selection of papers was published subsidised by Deakin University:

Trauma, History, Philosophy

Conference Organising Committee

  • Lindsay Dawson
  • Dr. Matthew Sharpe
  • Assoc. Prof Russell Grigg
  • Assoc. Prof Douglas Kirsner