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Essay

Imagination as emancipation

Challenging mental slavery

THERE IS A condition described by Maya Angelou in the first instalment of her memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (Random House, 1969), in which a traumatised young girl retreats from the world in preference for the safety of a cultivated interiority. Hemmed in by convention and a bad experience, she relies on herself, her capacity to imagine scenes more conducive to her health. The outside world of grown-ups constitutes an abiding threat; the inside world of her own making provides safety and sustenance.

Could the same malady be applied to history? Can a person feel afflicted to such an extent by knowledge of a history of damage that the hurt of history becomes personalised, no longer a matter of another time and people but felt as real and here and now?

Trauma theory tells us that groups carry hurts across the generations. Without much purposeful talk about it, people... Read more

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From Griffith Review Edition 59: Commonwealth Now © Copyright Griffith University & the author.

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