Symposium: Trauma in the Contemporary World: Working-through Collective Wounds, 30 October 2018

Our research fellow Raluca is organising a symposium at Birkbeck at the end of the month, and our PI Lisa will be contributing.

The symposium is being held at the Department of Psychosocial Studies and and will take place on 30 October, 2018, 10am to 5pm.

Room 101, 30 Russell Square, London WC1B 5DT

The symposium aims to create a space for an interdisciplinary conversation on the psychic transmission of trauma, on collective trauma and social mourning. While some voices argue that the notion of ‘trauma’ is overused and overstretched, we will explore the ways in which crucial aspects of both psychic life and social life can be formulated precisely as a trauma theory. What kind of metapsychological revisions are needed for a trauma theory for the contemporary world? What is the place of psychic splitting in making sense of social trauma? Or, in other words, what is the connection between the life of psychic fragments and the life of social fragments? How can we understand scenes of reliving the trauma, which take place in the streets and in the squares? How are institutions (including the state) implicated in social mourning, or, on the contrary, in its interruption? By asking these questions, we aim to illuminate the ways in which a revised trauma theory that takes into account the collective dimension of life is also a social theory.

The second part of the symposium will be dedicated to a discussion of Raluca Soreanu’s recent book Working-through Collective Wounds: Trauma, Denial, Recognition in the Brazilian Uprising (Palgrave, 2018). Soreanu argues for a phenomenology of psychic splitting, where we can follow, in a collective frame, what different psychic fragments ‘do’, or what becomes of their social life. Some psychic fragments are involved in the denial and the repetition of traumatic violence. Other psychic fragments are involved in the act of recognition or in a form of radical mutuality. A panel of psychoanalysts, psychosocial scholars and social theorists will discuss the implications of the ideas that Working-through Collective Wounds proposes, including notions such as: the confusion of tongues between registers of the social, memory-wounds, Orphic socialities, and traumatic voracity. Ultimately, the book brings into focus a creative and symbolising crowd, able to mourn and to preserve itself and things that matter in moments when extreme traumatic violence rips through the social body.

For more details, contact Raluca r.soreanuATbbk.ac.uk

Lisa Baraitser: ‘Saying Yes to No’ discussion in London, 27 September

Our PI Lisa will be leading a discussion in a private house in London as part of the Deptford X group’s ‘Saying Yes to No’ common study programme of events.

The discussion will be on Lisa’s recent book, Enduring Time, and will be taking place at 114 Breakspears Road, Brockley, SE4 1UD  this Thursday, 27 September from 12:00 – 15:00.

For more details about this talk, the programme of common study and the work of Deptford X, visit their website.

NHS 70th Birthday Bash, Exeter Library Castle St.

You’re invited to a very special birthday party – Saturday, 30thJune 1-3pm at Exeter Central Library, Castle Street (click here for map)

The National Health Service is 70 this year. To celebrate, the Wellcome Trust-funded Waiting Times team and the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health are collaborating with colleagues at the Exeter Library and University of Warwick to organise a birthday party.

This will be no ordinary do, however. As part of our public engagement strategy, we will be organising a host of activities to mark the occasion, to explore the history and future of the NHS, and to collect memories and narratives of service use (and waiting) over the past 70 years. Stalls for the public will include:

  • Card-making – create everything from birthday to “get well soon” cards
  • Video reel – marking 70 years of the NHS on and through film
  • A consultation room – diagnose the NHS, prescribe it treatment, and prognosticate on its future
  • Message recording – leave a message for the NHS or record a memory for our archives
  • A waiting room and buffet area – like a GP waiting room, only with birthday cake, crisps, squash and token carrot sticks.
  • Creative-writing workshop – with the possibility of getting your story/poem published in Riptide new-writing journal
  • Children’s story-time – a medicine-themed story read by Library staff.

It will be fun for all the family and finished in time for the football too!

If you are interested in volunteering, or hearing more about the event, then please email:

martin.moore@exeter.ac.uk and m.flexer@exeter.ac.uk

We are particularly keen to hear from anyone else who is turning or has turned 70 in 2018.  We’d love to celebrate your birthday at the same time!

Lisa Baraitser: ‘On Time, Care and Not Moving On’ at ICI Berlin, 5th July 2018

Lisa will be giving this lecture at 19.30, 5th July, 2018 at the ICI Berlin.  (And it is now available to watch here …)

Taking up the themes of her recent book Enduring Time, this talk will offer some reflections on the relations between time and care. Care is often assumed to be a set of practices that take the form of an affective engagement with others, so that we can maintain, sustain, and repair the world. Yet care can also be thought about as a political and ethical decision to remain in what Christina Sharpe calls ‘the wake’: the ongoing disastrous time of the persistent effects of slavery. Remaining, for Sharpe, involves inhabiting and rupturing the wake’s elongated temporality. From this perspective, Baraitser will argue that care is bound up with histories of the antithesis of care, or failures of care, that bring on ways of thinking that we may also need to take care of and involve the temporal practices of staying alongside others and ideas when care has failed; waiting, staying, delaying, enduring, repeating, and returning as the temporal forms that care takes.  Some psychoanalytic resources will help to think about the chronic and interminable, and the repetitive and developmental, in order to better understand the intersections between time, care, and not moving on.

For more details and booking info, visit the ICI Berlin site.

Patiently Waiting in the Early NHS? – a blog by our historian Martin

Whilst “wasting time”/“productively searching for historic pop culture representations of waiting” this week [delete as appropriate], I happened upon an episode of the sketch show, A Bit of Fry and Laurie from the early 1990s. In one of their “talking head” parodies, Hugh Laurie’s character comments:

“Well, we had our first child on the NHS. And had to wait nine months…

…Can you believe it?”

 

At the risk of proving E. B. White correct (and ‘killing the frog’), on the surface the joke played upon well-known durations of pregnancy, and invites us to laugh at the commentator’s ignorance.[i] The skit, however, also lampooned a certain type of caricatured middle class NHS user: one who approached health care with consumerist expectations, and who was prone to making (in this case, unreasonable) complaints about public service inefficiency.

The sketch, in other words, was a response to changing popular and parliamentary approaches to health care.[ii] As Sally Sheard and Alex Mold (respectively) have demonstrated, political and managerial attention to health service waiting undoubtedly intensified during the 1980s and early 1990s, and the period witnessed an individualisation of patient consumerism more generally.[iii]

Yet, as early Waiting Times research is showing (and as suggested by the ageing Laurie’s character), patient dissatisfaction with delays and waiting had been a feature of the NHS since its beginning.

During the late 1940s and early 1950s, for instance, Britain’s newspapers carried numerous letters from patients discussing their experiences of waiting for consultations in general practice and hospital outpatients, as well as deploring the waiting lists for hospital appointments, admission, and treatments.

Patients attending for consultations described waiting as ‘irksome’, ‘inconvenien[t], and ‘endless’.

Most did not explain why they were displeased at this wasted, interminable time, perhaps assuming the reasons to be obvious. However, we can find glimpses.

Some correspondents hinted that frustration arose from misaligned public and private schedules. They had multiple personal and social responsibilities, and time became an economic resource: time spent waiting was time taken away from other tasks.[iv]

There were, however, more symbolic concerns. The prioritisation of medical time over the patient’s own was a source of irritation, especially when subsequent encounters were depersonalised.

‘Outpatients at hospital’, Manchester Guardian, 3rd January 1953

Complainants often criticised the self-interestedness of doctors for appointment system failures and expressed dismay at clinicians for arriving late.

Yet, even when the doctors were considered courteous and blameless (with administrators were positioned as the villains of the piece), correspondents suggested that the squalor of public environments of waiting compounded their physical and psychological distress, and made their experiences almost unbearable.

 

‘Outpatients at hospital’, Manchester Guardian, 3rd January 1953

Of course, early patient responses to waiting also varied.

As with newspapers and political parties, some letters linked their quotidian experiences to broader political points.[v]Letter writers and Mass Observation respondents both echoed public narratives that queues were either the inevitable result of iniquitous, incompetent socialism, or temporary, and signs of egalitarian health care extending to persons previously priced-out of access. Others were tentatively resigned to waiting simply being a part of mass medical practice.

Yet, whether incensed or accepting (or simply mildly irritated), the vast majority of correspondents to publications and surveillance machinery, offered possible solutions.

Commentators suggested disaggregating appointments (rather than block booking everyone for the start of the clinic) and providing better information on the order of patients to be seen, as well as suggesting that waiting patients ‘equip themselves with a book or piece of knitting’ (‘it seems only common prudence’).[vi]

Like the Doctor looking for a fez, one correspondent seemingly got a little carried away in their endeavour, suggesting: ‘the waiting period should be made more pleasant by decorating the walls more attractively, better use of light, plenty of up-to-date magazines, books etc., flowers and pot plants, even an aquarium or small aviary, but most of all an air of cheerfulness and efficiency about the place.’[vii]

Although likely containing only the viewpoints of a very specific subset of the general population, these letters and survey responses thus offer considerable insight into waiting in the early NHS.

They shed light into the power dynamics at play in British medicine (for instance, whose time was prioritised). They highlight how modernist drives to “synchronise” individual, public, and institutional time had ordered the lives of mid-century patients and practitioners, but caused psychological distress when disturbed.[viii]

They also offer a glimpse into the longer history of quotidian experiences of waiting as slow and endless, and demonstrate the importance of comportment and environment to such perceptions.

Crucially for our appreciation of ‘80s and ‘90s sketch shows available on popular streaming services, however, they also underscore how political opposition to public services, and complaints about waiting in them, are as old as the services themselves.

Dr Martin Moore is the historian working on the Waiting Times project.

Notes

[i]White reportedly said: “humor can be dissected, as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to any but the pure scientific mind”. Those innards would likely be purchased by high-end restaurants and served on a bed of puréed dreams, now, however…

[ii]The show itself was well-known for lampooning older traditions of conservative morality, as well as what were then termed “Thatcherite” views of business and national services. It once suggested that Mrs Thatcher herself could be easily replaced by a coat hanger (to the nation’s benefit), and satirically created its own “Comedy Charter”, ‘a basket of top proposals’ to enable the viewer to complain and thus maintain the show’s quality and standards. The latter was a conscious play on the spate of such documents that followed John Major’s “Citizen’s Charter”, one of which was a “Patient’s Charter” that included minimum waiting times for patients.

[iii]S. Sheard, ‘Space, place and (waiting) time: reflections on health policy and politics’, Health Economics, Policy, and Law, (Early Access Online); A. Mold Making the Patient Consumer: Patient Organisations and Health Consumerism in Britain, (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2015).

[iv]G. Horobin and J. McIntosh, ‘Time, risk and routine in general practice’, Sociology of Health and Illness, 5:3, (1983), 312-31.

[v]J. Moran, ‘Queuing up in Post-War Britain’, Twentieth Century British History, 16:3, (2005), 283-305.

[vi]B. M. Fleming, ‘Hospital out-patients’, Manchester Guardian, 13thJanuary1953, p. 2.

[vii]H. Sumerfield, ‘Out-patients at hospital’, Manchester Guardian, 8thJanuary1953, p. 4.

[viii]B. Adam, Timewatch: The Social Analysis of Time, (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1995); Jacques Le Goff [translated by Arthur Goldhammer], Time, Work and Culture in the Middle Ages, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980).

Transitional States: Hormones at the Crossroads of Art and Science

Team member Elena has been involved as an intern at the Peltz Gallery at the School of Arts at Birkbeck, where this exhibition opened today and runs until 11th June.

Here’s a short description:

What effect do hormone uses have on emotions, sensations, sexual expression and desire? This video art exhibition presents the work of 14 artists and collectives who explore the immense role hormones have on our everyday life.

For more info, visit the exhibition site or the Birkbeck blog

Image: Zaya Barroso, In Transito 2017

Grey Time: Waiting for Beckett, 22-23 May 2018, University of Oslo

Our Exeter PI, Laura will be giving a paper on waiting and ‘grey time’ in Beckett at the Grey on Grey Conference at the University of Oslo, 22-23 May 2018.

Abstract:

There is a well-known story that when Beckett got to see the colour footage of his television play Quad played back on a black and white monitor he insisted it was ‘marvellous, […] 100,000 years later’. Beckett went on to record a monochrome, slowed down version of the play, Quadrat II, to sit alongside alongside the surprisingly colourful, rhythmic jerks and swerves of Quadrat I; together these snapshots of life represent an asymptotic stretching of time, a shuffling on and off towards a final still state. This seems like a typical move from the Beckett who insisted on policing the greyscale of his drama. ‘Too much colour’, he told the actor Billie Whitelaw, over and over, as she rehearsed Footfalls. Grey, or ‘Light black. From pole to pole’, is of course everywhere in Beckett’s later work, but although there has been some significant research on Beckett’s relationship to and with colour, the grey so firmly associated with Beckett’s aesthetic – from the tableaux of the plays to his iconic personal
image — has less frequently been linked to the author’s particular interest in the temporality of waiting. This paper sets out to determine what might be meant by ‘grey time’ in Beckett’s work. It traces out a time that is resolutely not a twilight or the famous l’heure bleue stretch of gloaming between night and day; it is rather, I argue, a historically specific, postwar articulation of temporality in which waiting is denuded of its ‘for’ – its purpose, its project, its
‘colour’. By showing how and why certain aspects of grey time speak clearly to Beckett’s ashen historical period, I also want to suggest which parts of Beckett’s temporality remain, lingering and enduring within our current waiting times.

For full details on the conference, including a list of speakers and their abstracts, visit Gray on Gray at the UiO: Department of Philosophy, Classics, History of Art and and Ideas webpage.

The Social Life of Time, 5-7th June, Edinburgh

In collaboration with the Temporal Belongings network, we’ll be holding our inaugural conference in Edinburgh, on 5th-7th June 2018.

The aim of this conference is to share current research on the social nature of time and to collaboratively reflect on key issues, problems and methodological approaches. In keeping with previous Temporal Belongings events, we will include a mixture of presentation styles, and plenty of time for discussion. We are particularly interested in playing with the traditional time of the academic conference and will include collaborative, participant-driven sessions where themes emerging from the presentations can be synthesised and explored in greater depth.  

Keynote speakers for the conference are:

Please send any queries to temporalbelongings@gmail.com

Michelle Bastian
Lisa Baraitser
Andrew Hom
Laura Salisbury
Conference Committee

For programme details and to book, please visit the conference website.