Trauma Narratives and the Ethics of Reading

Trauma Narratives and the Ethics of Reading Saulkrasti, Latvia, 26 July–2 August, 2017

The research circle Narrative and Memory: Ethics, Aesthetics, Politics is pleased to announce the call for its 2017 summer symposium, following its inaugural symposium in Tallinn (Estonia) in March 2017. The summer symposium will discuss the specific ethical and aesthetic issues raised by trauma narratives. Trauma narratives attempt to communicate suffering which is sometimes at the edge of representability and barely comprehensible to those who have not lived through it. We shall examine the aesthetic means which have been adopted to confront this problem and the ethical challenge which trauma narratives pose, as they radically bring into question our responsibility as readers, scholars, subjects, and citizens.

The symposium explores the current state of the field of trauma studies and its intersections with memory studies and narrative studies. We invite reflections on the ethical and political questions related to the narration and reception of trauma in all artistic and memorial media. How is the story of trauma to be told and understood? Who has the right or the responsibility to narrate the horrors of war, violence, displacement and re-location? What is the responsibility of those who are not primary victims, but who witness or receive the stories of atrocity? What are the gains and risks of attending to the trauma of others? What are the benefits and limits of the concept of trauma in addressing legacies of violence in the contemporary world? How should we rethink the notion of trauma in the light of recent discussions about the inadequacy of the perpetrator–victim binary in dealing with these legacies?

We have no pre-established view of the answers to these and related questions. The aim of the symposium is rather to promote debate in the expectation that beneficial effects are more likely to follow from open, informed discussion than public silence. We welcome both theoretical interventions and studies of particular instances of trauma, its narration and reception. ‘Reading’ should be understood in the broad sense as including all forms of reception and interaction, such as spectatorship, interviewing, conversation and secondary witnessing. We encourage participants to craft their presentations in the format that they find most suitable. However, please note that the maximum duration of each presentation, including time for follow-up discussion, will be 40 minutes, and we expect most presentations to be max. 20 minutes.

Those who wish to attend the symposium without giving a presentation are welcome to apply, but we encourage everyone to contribute actively to the group by reading participant papers and taking part in collective discussions. Priority is given to applicants who will present their work. Please send a proposal (max. 300 words) and a short biographical statement to Prof. Hanna Meretoja ( and Prof. Colin Davis ( If you would like to attend the symposium without presenting your work, please send us a biographical statement and briefly explain your interest in participating. The deadline for submission is 1 May, 2017. The preliminary program will be announced in mid-May at

There you will also find more information about NSU and may sign up for the newsletter.  Narrative and Memory: Ethics, Aesthetics, Politics is a three-year international research initiative funded by the Nordic Summer University with the aim of investigating how different storytelling practices of literature, audiovisual arts, social media and oral testimonies address the legacies of twentieth-century European conflicts and how they travel across national borders. It is an interdisciplinary network that brings together scholars of narrative and memory from the Nordic and Baltic countries and Great Britain. The research circle aims to contribute to public debate on issues of memory, war, displacement and the future of Europe in the current political context of the refugee crisis. The Nordic Summer University (NSU, [] is a Nordic network for research and interdisciplinary studies. NSU is a nomadic, academic institution, which organises workshop‐seminars across disciplinary and national borders. Since it was established in 1950, Nordic Summer University has organised forums for cultural and intellectual debate in the Nordic and Baltic region, involving students, academics, politicians, artists and intellectuals from this region and beyond. The backbone of the activities in NSU consists of its thematic study circles (, in which researchers, students and professionals from different backgrounds collaborate in scholarly investigations distributed regularly in summer and winter symposia during a three‐year period. Please find the full CFP with practical information at the network’s webpage: