Trauma Studies

Kali Tal is a pioneering scholar in the field of Trauma Studies, and her ground-breaking book, Worlds of Hurt: Reading the Literatures of Trauma (1995, Cambridge University Press), has been widely reviewed, quoted and cited.  Her extensive research included both reviews of the scholarly and psychological literature, and hundreds of oral history interviews conducted with trauma survivors over the span of a decade.

In addition to her work as an academic, from 1986-1987 Tal conducted Writing Therapy Workshops with Vietnam War combat veterans on a volunteer basis, in coordination with a therapist at the New Haven, CT Veteran’s Readjustment Center.  In 1988, Tal founded Viet Nam Generation, Inc., a non-profit 501(c)(3) literary and educational organization that published the Viet Nam Generation Journal and sponsored the yearly international Sixties Generations conferences. In her role at Viet Nam Generation, Inc., Tal served as editor and coach for scores of Vietnam veteran writers, as well as for survivor-authors of other traumas.  From 1989-1993, Tal worked as a consulant in the Oral History Archives and Multimedia Learning Center of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, while the institution was preparing for its opening.  In 1990, she founded Burning Cities Press to publish the work of combat veterans who became involved in the peace movement, as wells as non-veteran antiwar writers.

Tal’s work in the 1990s inspired LaSalle University’s Connelly library to expand its Special Collection of Imaginative Representations of the Vietnam War by establishing other collections on the Holocaust, and on Psychic Trauma. Her papers from the Vietnam Generation years are housed in the library, as are hundreds of the manuscripts that she edited. In the early 1990s, Tal’s successful efforts to declassify the secret papers of the War Crimes Working Group under the Freedom of Information Act opened the opportunity for other writers, including Deborah Nelson and Nick Turse, to publish books and articles based on their contents.

Though illness interrupted her research in the first decade of the new century, she continued to follow developments in the field of Trauma Studies, and in the diagnosis and treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and updated and expanded an online version of Worlds of Hurt.  The latest addition to the electronic version of Worlds of Hurt was a chapter on “Remembering Difference; Working Against Eurocentric Bias in Contemporary Scholarship on Trauma and Memory.” In 2012 she returned to the lecture circuit, where she joined Cathy Caruth and Anne Whitehead in giving a keynote address at the international conference, Interrogating Trauma in the Humanities, at the University of Lincoln, UK.

Tal is currently the Scientific Editor of the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine at the University of Bern, Switzerland, and is researching and writing a follow-up volume to Worlds that assesses the current state of trauma research, treatments, politics, and representation from an interdisciplinary perspective that draws on her interests in sociology, medicine, clinical psychology and cognitive science, feminism, and critical race studies.

More Writing About Trauma

War, Poetry, & Ethics,” War, Literature & the Arts, Fall/Winter 1998.
The Physician as Witness: A Response,” Literature & Medicine (Fall 1996) 15:2.
When History Talks Back: Inviting Vietnam Veterans into the Classroom,” The Vietnam War, ed. Marc Jason Gilbert (Stamford, CT: Greenwood Press) 1991.
The Self-Reflexive War: War Looking at Film Looking at War,” Jump/Cut 36 (Spring 1991).
On the Cover of the Rolling Stone: Toward a Theory of Cultural Therapy,” Viet Nam Generation 1:1 (Winter 1989).
The Mind at War: Images of Women in Vietnam Novels by Combat Veterans,” Contemporary Literature (Fall 1989).