By Arfah Shahid Siddiqi
The American University of Sharjah is offering a class called Trauma in History (IDS 39402) in the upcoming Spring Semester.
Its prerequisites include General Psychology (PSY 101) along with any 200-level history course.
The course will be taught jointly by Associate Professor of History Dr. Stephen Keck and Assistant Professor of International Studies Dr. Sabrina Tahboub-Schulte.
According to Keck, who heads the Department of International Studies, this interdisciplinary course will combine psychological theories with history to study the effects of long-term trauma on individual identities and culture.
Keck said that the course, which will use the British partition of India as its case study, developed out of an interest that he and Tahboub-Schulte shared in “understanding how people overcome desperately tragic events that overtake them.”
“We were interested in [the] fate of refugees, how they rebuild their lives and how they have trouble remembering and expressing what happened,” said Keck.
Keck stated that from a psychological point of view, people who have undergone a long traumatic history start suffering from conditions like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; from a historian’s perspective, they also develop a certain kind of amnesia because they don’t want to talk about the tragedies that happened.
Accordingly, Keck explained that the first half of the course will involve Tahboub-Schulte introducing what trauma is, as well as explaining how one can ask questions about it and how to listen to victims.
The second part of the course is where Keck will introduce the history of the partition, and apply the psychological theories studied earlier to the case study.
“We decided to focus on the partition of British India so that we could talk about Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs,” Keck said. “We wanted something where we were not in any way taking sides on what happened.” He added that the partition covered a diverse set of experiences of those affected.
Keck related some of the concepts in the course to the ongoing civil war in Syria, and said that although scholars may not be able to try writing a definitive history of the latter conflict for many years, connections can already be made.
He said that “the idea of studying reconstruction and reconciliation is something that has a lot of potential in academia in the future,” and that he would like AUS students to go out and be able to contribute in these fields.
Keck said he and Tahboub-Schulte received a grant for the course, which was last taught in Spring 2012. “Students will present a paper at a conference that we in the International Studies department will be organizing at the end of the semester,” Keck added.
Arfah Shahid Siddiqi is a senior International Studies and Journalism student at American University of Sharjah.