Follow by Email

Sunday, December 11, 2011

"Trauma & Event"

Soon, I will start a blog to share my daily work on my doctoral dissertation at the European Graduate School - "Trauma & Event."
Here is a sample ...

"Evental psychiatry is a process that allows those whom Badiou calls the uncounted (I call them threshold people), inhabiting the edge of the void in Badiou’s terms (or the threshold in mine), in what Agamben calls the state of exception (and what I call liminality) to be counted (Badiou), witnessed (Agamben) or heard (Mollica, Di Nicola) and to become Subjects. They are precisely those who take a wager on the Event (we are leaving the asylum to make a new life – Basaglia; whose madness breaks boundaries – Laing; whose exclusion destroys false consciousness – Fanon; who traverse the Real to negate the lack – Lacan) to find ways of maintaining a fidelity to it (we will make a new life outside the asylum; my madness will become my journey; I will create a new consciousness; I will offer what I don’t have to someone who doesn’t want it)."


  1. Well done! I look forward to following this blog, dissertation, to book process! Best wishes, V!
    Matthew Giobbi

  2. Much gratitude, Matthew!

    I hope to share what has been a lonely process and risks more isolation not only because I am entering a more intense phase of writing my dissertation but because I don't imagine that my process or direction will be edifying for many in my profession.

    Drucilla Cornell grasped perfectly well in our conversations in London last July that trauma gets in the way of revolutionary change. (I am very grateful to her for explicitly eludicating this link in her seminar.)

    And in August in Saas-Fee, Alain Badiou challenged me by observing that either I will declare the death of psychiatry or call for a new, evental psychiatry--"une psychiatrie événementielle." By the death of psychiatry, we should understand the end of psychiatry as a serious project which binds together the problems of choice/decision (what I call "predicament"), distance/gap ("rupture") and exception/event (revolutionary change which opens possibilities).

    For reasons I will spell out very clearly, I am undecided as to the possibility of such an evental psychiatry--certainly as an organized, state-sponsored discourse.

    In friendship,


  3. Vincenzo,

    First of all let me say how excited I am that you are writing this blog. I feel it is incredibly important to express our dissertation ideas as we are writing and in that process offering up an open invitation to anonymous and known interlocutors to comment. It is in this way that writing and thought becomes an "eventive constellation," in more of a Deleuzian sense of the term. I, for one, will try and comment on as many posts as I can because I believe the issue you are tackling here is an interesting one. I hope you will take the time to do so on my blog as well ( as I am engaging in a similar exercise as I enter a more intensive writing stage of my dissertation. I also publish another site that includes these posts and other blog posts i find interesting at ( .

    In relation to your first post, I would encourage you to think of my philosophical friend Felix Guattari's "anti-psychiatry" (as some would have it) at La Borde and in Brazil as "evental psychiatry." I think his work is particularly relevant, regardless of your particular feelings towards Deleuze and his treatment of psychoanalysis, because you are precisely talking about trauma in psychiatry and the event. I think that Guattari's "group psychiatry" methodology that he practiced at La Borde may be relevant in instances where trauma occurs in relation to a whole group of people.

    I also would encourage you to think of our relationship to nature, the environment, the Animal Other as existing at the site of liminality that you portray. I believe that we all might suffer some underlying trauma due to this relationship that often gets covered over with a false layer of wholeness. This may just because I am obsessed with animals lately and also because I had a dog of mine recently unexpectedly die in my arms do to a freak gastro-intestinal problem, which was a traumatic experience for me. But I believe there is something here worth exploring in relation to trauma and the event.

    I'm sure I have much more to say but that will do for now as I know that I will have a blog's worth of work to comment on.

    As friendship,

  4. "Drucilla Cornell grasped perfectly well in our conversations in London last July that trauma gets in the way of revolutionary change. (I am very grateful to her for explicitly eludicating this link in her seminar.)"

    In relation to this passage, in the comments, I would say that this is an interesting comment because trauma often is the exigency for demanding revolutionary change but as always there seems to be a question put to all revolutions of what is the goal/mode of address that you are seeking? I would say that the Occupy movement is interesting because it has yet to have a single source of leadership that has set out a list of demands. Zizek's comments to the movement are good in this regard ( I would argue that often times we just want somebody to recognize that our trauma is real and exists and once that happens we are much more ready to set down our revolutionary mentality and talk it out. I think you are on to something here by focusing on the elucidation of this link.

    And I don't think you should worry about the edification of your profession. Create the profession anew. Become minor in the eyes of the majority of a site of eventive thought.

    Your comrade,

  5. Ryan,

    I am sure of this: trauma will not make a revolution! Leadership is important but not enough. Briefly, I am no more instrumentally-oriented in revolutionary change than I am in times of continuity.

    Both trauma & event arise from rupture but only an evental site (in Badiou's new language, a situation he calls a world) will see the emergence of an event. Cornell carefully outlines how to fulfill the conditions for revolutionary change, following Balibar. But I believe that people will not be able to be faithful to those conditions due to the repetition of trauma.

    This is why I chose psychiatry over politics & philosophy. In my native Italy, the parties of the centre-right were corrupt & devious. The Communists were little better, playing the same dirty game. After the assassination of Aldo Moro, I turned my back on politics and decided to go into medicine.

    People need to tell their "trauma story" (Richard Mollica) and we need to create environments for this to happen. Primo Levi was a witness to what happened in the death camps, Agamben sensitively studied the role of the witness, which was already intuited by psychoanalyst Alice Miller as the role of the "enlightened witness."

    The history of psychiatry & psychoanalysis is one long effort to create the conditions for hearing the trauma story. Despite false leads and other problems, this is the history of psychiatry. One of the things I have learned as a psychiatrist and student of philosophy is that the "history of madness" (Foucault) is not the same thing as the history of psychiatry. I am not sure either critical psychiatrists, philosophers or historians have understood that. Each group has a partial view & a vested interest in conflating the two histories. First, Foucault is right: psychiatry doesn't treat the "madness" he investigated. Second, what we do treat is socially and culturally constructed in ways that few of us have the skills to tease out.

    My contribution is to rethink trauma.

    As to the theme of trauma and revolution, I see this link: ever since Plato's pharmakos/pharmakon, we have been confused by the definition of an agent or an action that is both poison and remedy, just as Sartre justified revolutionary violence with the image of Achilles' sword which both cuts and heals. Today's version is a conflation of trauma as wound and trauma as trigger for "adversity-activated growth."

    I am neither pessimistic nor cynical as anyone who knows me will attest. I am simply saying that continuing this muddled thinking will neither help us to understand real trauma (most of what is called trauma is simply interruption or rupture, not a wound) nor prepare us to live with it (healing is already a lot to ask for).

    Traumatized people will not make a revolution. They will lead fragmented lives and probably repeat their trauma (as the rhetorical analysis I conducted with Thomas Zummer clearly indicates), albeit in a different form.

    One of the things that Badiou opens up for me is a language of pseudo-events (or simulacra) and what I am elaborating as pseudo-fidelity (the true believer, the fanatic, the fundamentalist). Revolutionary change will emerge from evental sites where new elements never before imagined will suddenly become available and it takes fidelity to those elements to name and sustain a revolution. That has happened nowhere and at no time in my lifetime.

    It is not happening in the Arab Spring, now turned to winter, and I do not see it happening in the Occupy Wall Street movement. Why not in OWS? I see nothing but the "usual suspects" as the cynical French policeman said in Casablanca. The same tired arguments mouthed by hooded faces. Interesting that we Westerns are asking the fundamentalists to take off the veil in one context and putting on masks in another. Anyone who wears a mask, who speaks anonymously, has nothing to say to us about freedom and revolution!