Ruptures and Their Afterlife: A Cultural Critique of Trauma


  • Orkideh Behrouzan SOAS University of London



mental health, rupture, Iran Iraq War, Middle East, war trauma, memory-work, generational memory, psychiatry


This paper provides a cultural critique of the concept of trauma by examining the generational narratives of toromā in the Iranian context and the psychologization of memory in the aftermath of the 1980s. It examines memory-work as a cultural and political resource for witnessing and historicizing the otherwise muted discourse of the Iran-Iraq War and the anomie of the 1980s Iran. The paper elaborates on the concept of rupture, as an alternative to trauma, for its recognition of the complexity, multiplicity, and diffusion of historical conditions and their afterlife. These narratives of rupture show how generations are constructed and negotiated, not temporally, but based on the political and emotional stakes of how, and what, one remembers, thereby informing the identity politics of young Iranians and generating new socialities and cultural forms. The paper approaches the psychological afterlife of social anomie as both a clinical and a cultural/political experience and raises questions about the ethics of engagement with the two constructed concepts of “mental health” and the “Middle East.”


Orkideh Behrouzan, SOAS University of London

is a physician, medical anthropologist, and the author of Prozak Diaries: Psychiatry and Generational Memory in Iran (2016, Stanford University Press). She teaches at SOAS University of London and leads the collaborative, multi-cited project Beyond “Trauma”: Emergent Agendas for Understanding Mental Health in the Middle East. The initiative underscores the compelling role of diverse cultural practices, historical conditions, moral contexts, and medical pedagogies in shaping psychological wellbeing and the afterlife of social ruptures.





Behrouzan, O. „Ruptures and Their Afterlife: A Cultural Critique of Trauma“. Middle East - Topics & Arguments, Bd. 11, November 2018, S. 131-44, doi:10.17192/meta.2018.11.7798.