The Survivor in Contemporary Culture and Public Discourse: A Genealogy

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This article sketches a genealogy examining the production of the concept of “the survivor” in contemporary culture and public discourse across five discursive sites in mainly western (particularly Anglo-American) cultures: the Holocaust, psychotherapy, feminist discourses of childhood and sexual abuse, reality TV, and discourses of health and illness. It argues that the survivor has become a meaningfully visible, cultural notion and a desirable role that individuals are encouraged to assume, rendering the categories of victim and the dead false and illegitimate. The article concludes by arguing for the need in contemporary public and highly mediated space to expand the range of explanatory frameworks through which individuals, especially those experiencing suffering, come to think, judge, and act.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Media and Communications, London School of Economics and Political Science,

Publication date: April 1, 2009

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