The power of place: Trauma recovery and memorialization

  • Stephanie Arel New York University, USA


In this paper, places of trauma, physical locations that reflect the Celtic spiritual concept of “thin places,” simultaneously represent real life events, possess symbolic meaning, and become places for active, engaged social activity related to memorialization. I explore how these places create a potential space for working through trauma, drawing on Judith Herman’s fundamental stages of recovery which she articulates as “establishing safety, reconstructing the trauma story, and restoring the connection between survivors and their communities.” I argue that memorial museums attending to trauma can guide the process of working through suffering to growth and transformation, thus benefiting witnesses, survivors and family members, and employees who immerse themselves in the stories they memorialize in order to facilitate empathy and emotional availability to visitors of all types. This community commemorating communal
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