Stories of soldiers suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder dominate news coverage of the return from wars in the Middle East. On the surface, the stories call our attention to psychic trauma and the need for mental health services for veterans; scratch that surface and we see that PTSD has morphed from a diagnostic category into a cultural trope with broad societal implications. In PTSD: Diagnosis and Identity in Post-empire America, Jerry Lembcke exposes those implications.
Lembcke reprises PTSD's formulation following the war in Vietnam, examining how its medical discourse provided a psychological alternative to the political interpretations of veterans' opposition to the war- psychiatrists said veteran dissent was cathartic, a form of acting-out.
Lembcke drills deeply into the modern history of war-trauma treatment, picking up the threads left by nineteenth-century work on men and hysteria, and following them into the treatment of "shell shock" in World War I. With great originality, Lembcke also shows how art and the media led the "science" of war trauma, and then how the followers of Sigmund Freud showed that shell-shock symptoms were as likely to be expressions of fears and conflicts internal to the patients as the effects of exploding shells. The line drawn by the Freudian critique of the medical/neurological model would resurface in debates leading to PTSD's inclusion in the DSM in 1980 and on-going deliberations over the definition and meaning of Traumatic Brain Injury.
In core chapters, Lembcke shows the influence of film, theater, television, and news coverage on public and professional thinking about war trauma.
The inglorious nature of recent wars, from Vietnam through Iraq and Afghanistan, leaves Americans searching for meaning in those conflicts and finding it in loss and sacrifice. Lembcke warns that the image of damaged war veterans is working metaphorically in these dangerous times to construct a national self-image of defeat and damage that needs to be avenged. It is a dangerous end-of-empire narrative that needs to be engaged, he says, lest its dangers reach fruition in more war. The insights found in this book make it an invaluable resource for scholars of sociology, medical sociology, psychology, military studies, gender studies, and history of psychiatry, and a riveting read for anyone interested in the subjects it treats.
Publisher: Lexington Books
Number of pages: 232
Weight: 349 g
Dimensions: 226 x 151 x 17 mm
Arguing that 'the reality of PTSD is far greater than that given it by medical sciences,' Lembcke sets about separating the diagnostic wheat from the cultural, economic, and political chaff. He illustrates the influence of film, theater, television, and news coverage on the tangled story of war trauma. Headlining the compelling victim-veteran role that US society expects of returning combat veterans, Lembcke covers a variety of interesting sociological topics-for example, 'wannabe vets' and how PTSD is used as an alibi for homicide, failed marriages, and other personal problems. The author challenges the status quo by chronicling the social construction of PTSD and traumatic brain injury-that is, circumstances in which empirical reality or critical thinking is often not the umpire. What sets this book apart is the author's take on how media representations have hijacked the diagnosis of war trauma. Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate students, faculty, clinicians, and patients. * CHOICE *
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has become a virtual catch-all basket into which all sorts of mental and physical ailments experienced by returning veterans are being tossed. By carefully teasing out the medical issues from the cultural representations, Jerry Lembcke acknowledges the gendered trauma that is always attendant upon warfare, but separates the diagnostic wheat from the cultural chaff, and thus returns to those wounded warriors the specificity of their experience. -- Michael Kimmel, SUNY Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Gender Studies, Stony Brook University
Jerry Lembcke adds considerably to our understanding of the emergence and acceptance of PTSD in the United States. His analysis of the cultural and visual depictions of the disorder is particularly innovative and revealing. -- Peter Conrad, Brandeis University