Affect, Violence, and Sovereignty: Reading Collective Isolation in Post-Catastrophic Trauma Writings

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Wu, Yishu


Rojas, Carlos

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As the twenty-first century has entered an era of catastrophes, post-catastrophic trauma writings in world literature bear witness and give testimonies to the moments of crisis. With a comparative literary study of the post-catastrophic trauma writings and other forms of representations that respond to the 9/11 terrorism in the United States and the Covid-19 pandemic outbreaks in China, this research explores the question of how the collective traumas develop dynamic relationships with individuality and influence individuals’ mental lives affectively. In the catastrophic aftermath, the collective traumas shared by the individuals act on their interiority and form a sense of collective isolation, which means that an individual staying in a collectivity remains unconsciously isolated affects. The research will illustrate the embodiments of collective isolation at an individual level and delve into its social causes at a collective level. On an individual level, collective isolation is recognized as a traumatized subject’s sense of detachment from the chronological present, showing a dislocation with time. On a collective level, collective isolation is an exteriorization of a traumatized society by two types of violence: subjective violence and objective violence. The intensive conflicts around subjective violence directly by catastrophes may transform into invisible objective violence, which constantly and implicitly influences politics, cultures, and human affects. This research would land at the point that collectivity and individuality as two spatial concepts could be interpenetrated through affects, illustrating that the collective traumas represent dynamic relationships among violence, affects, public spheres, and the individual’s mental world.




Asian studies, Asian literature, Comparative literature



Wu, Yishu (2024). Affect, Violence, and Sovereignty: Reading Collective Isolation in Post-Catastrophic Trauma Writings. Master's thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from


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