This is a paper
I wrote for my introductory psychology
class last semester
. I read it again and thought it was a little beefier than most of the crap I concoct for school
.Thanks to whoever softlink
ed Node Your Homework
which I completely forgot to do.
Grasping Diaspora as a Psychologist's Tool: An Evaluation of E. Apfelbaum's And Now What, After Such Tribulations.
The tendency to analyze social
upheaval in a macro context is not unique to sociology
. Psychologists have also depended heavily on the group model
to explain the individual consequences of dispersal
, and genocide
. In the ethical sense, we cannot speculate that this is due to maliciousness or intentional misrepresentations of human experience. It is an incredibly difficult topic for a single researcher
to grasp wholly much less develop theory
on. Apfelbaum wrote that this why question was "outside the scope of this article" (Apfelbaum, 2000) and one cannot help but sympathize with her on this point.
The social phenomenon of "uprooting" is not new. The collective culture of uprooted African Americans is often referred to as the Diaspora that has developed into a paradigm for rethinking the impact that history has played in shaping African American culture. Beyond the blunt trauma of slavery and the Holocaust colonialism and it's cynical stepchild neocolonialism have created infinite gradients of dispersed people. Uprooting is no longer exclusively the product of apocalyptic, war-driven disaster. Its psychological implications have been, according to Apfelbaum, largely ignored.
The cause of uprooting and dislocation is most often caused by political or social upheaval on a less dramatic scale. The constantly shifting regimes in Africa are like factories for producing survivors of small-scale atrocities. Isolated from third party observation and ignored by the commodity motivated western world, the events "officially" never happened. These profound upheavals of human life are sanitized, typed onto government letterhead, and filed away forever. This denial of a person's traumatic reality can have devastating effects on both the individual and the community. It may lead the victim to question the validity of their experience and doubt that they have any claim to victimization.
Uprooting often results in loss of identity. Apfelbaum posits that one of the root causes of this disconnection is the decontextualization of events. This causes a conflict within the individual as the forces of history and official government reports erase their personal experiences. This denial of experience acts as a powerful silencer for many victims of uprooting. By sanitizing traumatic events into historical anecdotes, victims may begin to feel distanced from those who did not share their experience. This loss of context may create "a sort of disassociation between the individual's private and public lives" (Apfelbaum, 2000).
The children of the uprooted may also suffer the consequences of uprooting. While parents may have the best intentions of "protecting the next generation (. . .) to spare them the pain and anguish that the parents themselves have suffered" it may also create unbridgeable gaps of understanding between generations. Because the uprooted are
largely refugees with the United States topping the list as final destination, this attempted protection may augment the problems associated with immigration such as generational language barriers and complicity with cultural assimilation.
Apfelbaum cites examples of the transformative power of reconstructing forgotten histories. The first of these is the televised mini-series Roots (based on the novel by Alex Haley) that appeared in 1977. It was the third most viewed television show in history. Apfelbaum asserts that the effects of its broadcast were dramatic for both white and African American viewers. For the African American community she found that it acted as "a form of healing" and "some kind of reparation effect" (Apfelbaum, 2000). Whites were forced to acknowledge that slavery was not a product of naturally occurring inequality. Apfelbaum also alludes to the importance of young Jews reclaiming the Yiddish as a mother tongue after it was nearly erased from history by the Nazis.
Reclaiming history is especially important in the United States. In the U.S., the tradition of expecting recent immigrants to renounce their language and custom is unquestioned. By digging into the psychological implications of this expectation we may begin to move towards a true sense of plurality that includes histories that are not our own. Acknowledging history that will never be eulogized in textbooks is important for both the observer and participant in that history. This acknowledgement would be a true commitment to plurality and a blow in the face to hollow shows of "diversity" that seek to prove non-discrimination. Apfelbaum characterizes this perspective as "a major epistemological shift for psychology" and for human understanding in general.
Apfelbaum, E (2000). And Now What, After Such Tribulations? American Psychologist, Volume 55, Number 9, 1008-1013.