'It did not traumatise me at all': childhood 'trauma' in French oral narratives of wartime bombing

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Abstract

In oral histories of the Allied bombing of France during the Second World War, ‘trauma’ is a word rarely used. Here, I examine the seeming absence of trauma in interviews I recorded with people who lived through the bombing as children. I note that this absence is only apparent, and that close analysis of their words reveals ‘trauma signals’ explicitly and implicitly in the narrative and its structure. Bombing is an objectively traumatising event, but traumatisation depends too on a subjective response which, I suggest, is psychological as well as socially constructed. I conclude by proposing several reasons why trauma is not expressed directly in these narratives, which include French memorial culture in the post-war era, the elision of victimhood and trauma, and interviewees’ subsequent life trajectories as soldiers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-48
Number of pages12
JournalOral History
Volume41
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2013

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