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Distributed for National University of Singapore Press

Resilience and the Localisation of Trauma in Aceh, Indonesia

Aceh is a region that is no stranger to violent conflict and tragedy. This special territory of Indonesia has faced occupation, fallen into civil war, and was brutalized by the deadly 2004 tsunami. While these forces have altered the lives of the Aceh people, their very experiences of suffering and recovery have changed thanks to the globalization of psychiatry.

In this book, Catherine Smith examines the global reach of the contested, yet compelling, concept of trauma. She explores how what is considered “trauma” has expanded well beyond the bounds of therapeutic practice to become a powerful cultural idiom shaping the ways people understand the effects of violence and imagine possible responses to suffering. In Aceh, conflict survivors have incorporated the ideas of trauma into their local languages, healing practices, and political imaginaries. The appearance of this idiom of distress into the Acehnese medical-moral landscape provides an ethnographic perspective on suffering and recovery, and contributes to our contemporary debates about the international reach of psychiatry and the cultural consequences as it spreads beyond the domain of medicine.

232 pages | 2 maps | 6 x 9

Asian Studies: Southeast Asia and Australia


Sociology: Race, Ethnic, and Minority Relations

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“Smith’s innovative approach considers how a distinctively Acehnese notion of trauma serves as a means of coping with suffering and displacing or deferring stigma. This is a valuable corrective to much of the critique of humanitarianism, in which the phenomenon of trauma is often taken for granted, as if it were merely an objective category of experience.”

Mary Margaret Steedly, Harvard University

“This is an important and challenging book. . . . The book deftly interweaves social theory with Acehnese culture and historical consciousness and a deep sympathy for Aceh’s suffering people.”

Robert Cribb, Australian National University

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