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Disturbance and Destruction: The Aetiology of Trauma

Haukedal, Rasmus Sandnes

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Rasmus Sandnes Haukedal



In this article, I examine Catherine Malabou’s concept of trauma, and argue that her replacement of the Freudian unconscious with the cerebral unconscious might fit adequately into a different framework from the one she proposes. Comparing her view of pathology to that of Georges Canguilhem, I propose a dimensional reading of pathology. Building on this – and by reference to metaplasticity – I ask whether one can explain the mechanisation characteristic of the new wounded mechanistically. I then look at her exchange with Slavoj Žižek to get at Malabou’s understanding of psychoanalysis. She seeks to realign Freud and neuroscience to resolve issues with both. As part of this shift, she introduces the term ‘the Material’ – linked to the cerebral unconscious – as an alternative to the Lacanian triad of Real, Symbolic, and Imaginary. She does, however, leave it underdeveloped, and I argue that this points to tensions in her theory. While her concept of plasticity runs against ideas of an isolated transcendental subject exempt from the outside, Malabou seems to literalise (or ‘corporealise’) trauma. If this is correct, then how radical is her concept of trauma, and are there ways of describing trauma that are equally compatible with her concept of plasticity?


Haukedal, R. S. (2020). Disturbance and Destruction: The Aetiology of Trauma. Culture, Theory and Critique, 61(1), 22-36.

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date May 22, 2020
Publication Date 2020
Deposit Date Jan 29, 2019
Publicly Available Date Nov 22, 2021
Journal Culture, Theory and Critique
Print ISSN 1473-5784
Electronic ISSN 1473-5776
Publisher Taylor and Francis Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 61
Issue 1
Pages 22-36


Accepted Journal Article (461 Kb)

Copyright Statement
This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Culture, theory, and critique on 22 May 2020 available online:

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