This Special Issue brings together five articles from different disciplines. It aims to contribute to the emergent critical voices in research about collective trauma and collective healing by introducing novel perspectives and inviting further debates on the relevant issues evoked. For this reason, the Special Issue focuses on collective healing through a number of prisms. First, it delves into the notions of wounding and trauma, with a view to advance a well-argued theoretical framework for understanding collective healing. Second, it identifies underlying ethical pillars for collective healing, especially the principles of equality and well-being that affirm human dignity founded on our intrinsic non-instrumental value as persons. Third, it interrogates one of the deeply seated root causes of transatlantic slavery, and establishes a connection between capitalist expansion and systematic subjugation of human beings to brutal forces for the sake of materialistic production and wealth accumulation. Thus, this Special Issue attempts to survey historical dehumanisation in some of the mass atrocities, probe their continued legacies in contemporary societies in Africa, Europe, and the Americas, and highlight some of the political, psycho-social and grassroots approaches to collect healing in various contexts. In doing so, it further reflects on the conceptual, methodological and structural challenges involved when moving towards collective healing.
26th May 2021 UNESCO Webinar: The Legacy of Slavery, Transgenerational Trauma & Collective Healing
At this exciting international event, the UNESCO Slave Route Project and the Guerrand-Hermès Foundation for Peace Research Institute (GHFP) brought together high-profile speakers and artists to launch “Healing the Wounds of Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and Slavery: Approaches and Practices: A Desk Review.” This timely Report draws together the perspectives of researchers and practitioners to map major approaches to addressing the legacy of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and slavery. It was the fruit of collaboration between an international team of researchers and practitioners, under the guidance of the UNESCO Slave Route Project and the GHFP Research Institute. The Report highlights the imperative to embark on a collective journey towards healing transgenerational trauma and the importance of systemic transformation.
Formally launching and disseminating this Report is an active response to UNESCO’s Global Call against racism. It will inspire the world to learn from the histories of slavery, acknowledge the harms of structural injustice and institutional racism, and promote inclusion, pluralism and intercultural dialogue.
Watch the recording of the UNESCO Launch event here:
Dr Joy DeGruy on How to Address the Legacy of trans-Atlantic slavery
In this A Narrative of Love conversation, the UNESCO Slave Route Project Advisor, Dr Joy DeGruy, explores what it feels for black African Americans to negotiate the multiple challenges of living in a racist society, including internalised racism, the learned helplessness, and structural dehumanisation. Dr DeGruy also highlights key elements that can move the society towards healing, at both personal and collective levels.
More importantly, Dr DeGruy offers pathways that individuals, organisations, and governments can embark on to repair, rebuild and restructure our common habitat through partaking in the mutuality of shared humanness. Thus we can all Be the Healing.
Large-Group Psychology: Racism, Societal Divisions, Narcissistic Leaders, and Who We Are Now
A new and updated exploration of large-group psychology from world-renowned psychoanalyst Dr Vamik D. Volkan. This timely book investigates the underlying psychology of the societal divisions occurring in the world and includes the author’s personal observations and experiences of racism as a ‘voluntary immigrant’ to the US over six decades ago. Large-Group Psychology: Racism, Societal Divisions, Narcissistic Leaders and Who We Are Now is an immensely readable book, written in a beautifully clear and jargon-free prose.
This is a must-read and provides illuminating ideas in terms of how we might understand the significance of healing the wounds of collective historical trauma such as trans-Atlantic slave trade and slavery.
Desk Review Report: Mapping Approaches to Healing the Wounds of Slavery
Supported by the UNESCO Slave Route Project, the GHFP has completed a Desk Review aimed at mapping meaningful approaches to healing the wounds of slavery.
The Desk Review draws on a conception of healing wounds that perceives the wound of trans-Atlantic slave trade and slavery as systematic dehumanisation. This in turn highlights the imperative of healing as addressing dehumanisation through four processes:
- Process One is directed at dehumanising acts per se;
- Process Two is directed at the traumatic effects of being dehumanised;
- Process Three is directed at the dehumanising relationships; and
- Process Four is directed at the structural conditions that enable and have enabled institutionalised dehumanisation.
In reviewing the relevant literature and case studies, the Desk Review has mapped out some of the key practical approaches to healing. Understanding the significance of collective healing and taking practical steps towards healing are amongst the most powerful ways to eradicate racism.
Remembering the unremembered: A Key to Healing
In her review of Toni Morrison‘s book “Beloved”, Dr Scherto Gill suggests that one of the book’s features be that it allows us to remember the unremembered, and reminds us of the need to face the oppressed collective memories of slavery. Without embracing these memories, the unremembered continues to hold our societies, and we live simultaneously in the present and in the past.
Dr Gill says:
Clearly, the unremembered is never forgotten, and they wear different guises today in racism, poverty, and violence, the three evils of structural oppression identified by Martin Luther King Jr.
That unremembered demands to be remembered, is because memories can imprison but also liberate. By remembering, the formerly enslaved can re-acquaint with their bodies once so violated by brutality and torture, and can return to their community, a community from which they once ran away, because it identity was associated with commodity and utility.
Dr King calls this new place of belonging our Beloved Community, built on dignity, mutual respect, and compassion. For Morrison, this Beloved Community must start with listening to unremembered past … because she knew only too well, it is in the remembered that lies seed of forgiveness, redemption, and healing.
Trauma of slavery and epigenetics
Epigenetics is the study of biological mechanisms that can switch genes on and off. Recent epigenetic studies have shown that stress, socio-economic deprivation, racism and other traumatic experiences of our ancestors can play a part in turning on or off certain genes in our DNA. That is to say, for instance, the trauma of slavery can be passed on transgenerationally. See an example in the work by Professor Ariane Giacobino.
Several of the forthcoming UNESCO Symposium contributors have argued for the importance of healing the trauma of slavery, such as in the work of Professor Joy DeGruy, who maintains that the systematic dehumanising effects of slavery have continued to impact many African American people’s experiences in the world. Equally, Professor Aimé Charles-Nicolas has called for systematic healing of transgenerationally transmitted traumas inherited directly from slavery or passed down through racism rooted in slavery. Such an imperative has been reinstated in the International Scientific Colloquium on “Slavery: what is its impact on the the psychology of populations?” in Martinique and Guadeloupe on October 2016.
Professor Benjamin Bowser and others also urge our societies to pay more attention to how education might continue to perpetuate such trauma, and likewise, new approaches to teaching and learning about trans-Atlantic slave trade and slave history may contribute to healing and cultural transformation.
Coming to the Table
Coming to the Table is a national organization whose vision for the United States is of “a just and truthful society that acknowledges and seeks to heal from the racial wounds of the past – from slavery and the many forms of racism it spawned.” It started its work in 2006 from the efforts of Susan Hutchison and Will Hairston, both descendants of European heritage enslavers who had formed bonds with descendants of people their ancestors had enslaved.
The name of the organization comes from the “I Have a Dream” speech given by Dr. Martin Luther King. The mission of Coming to the Table is to “provide leadership, resources, and a supportive environment for all who wish to acknowledge and heal wounds from racism that is rooted in the United States’ history of slavery.” Coming to the Table promotes four approaches to achieving its mission.
Coming to the Table holds National Gatherings every two years. There are also local groups around the country. Another national but virtual component of Coming to the Table are its working groups, such as the Linked Descendants working group.
Through the Coming to the Table website, anyone may have access to a set of recommended resources. STAR, Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience, is a workshop. Transforming Historical focuses STAR on the trans-generational transmission of harms done by injustice and inequity. Other resources come from the domain of Restorative Justice.
In the local and national gatherings of Coming to the Table, two tools are used consistently: the Circle Process and These Guidelines for Sensitive or Challenging Conversations. The book, Gather at the Table, is an accessible entry into Coming to the Table’s work and a good starting point for conversation.
Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation
Kellogg Foundation‘s Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation (TRHT) enterprise has initiated a national process aimed at addressing centuries of racial inequities in the United States. TRHT seeks to advance racial healing in communities across the country to create environments where everyone can thrive. It is based on the understanding that the roots of slavery is the belief in a hierarchy of human value, and by jettisoning such a belief, and transforming our collective consciousness, we can re-envisioning a more humane, equitable and loving society.
The Design of TRHT focuses on changing narratives, enabling healing and relationship building, developing more systemic transformation through law and economy. For more information on the TRHT, please read:
UNESCO 2018 Symposium Announced
Entitled “Healing the Wounds of Slavery: Towards a Mutual Recovery“, the Symposium is co-organised by the UNESCO and GHFP, and hosted by the Berkley Centre at the Georgetown University, Washington DC. on 18-19 Oct. 2018.
This dialogue amongst carefully selected multidisciplinary experts is envisioned to address the root causes of racial prejudices, racism and discrimination derived from slavery, past and present. In particular, this symposium Continue reading “UNESCO 2018 Symposium Announced”
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