Trauma as Displacement: Observations from Refugee Resettlement

Patricia Ehrkamp, Jenna M. Loyd, Anna J. Secor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Trauma does not have a single definition. Within Western paradigms, across humanities and social sciences, it has largely been characterized through temporal and spatial dislocation. Critical studies of trauma, however, suggest that such framings of rupture, catastrophe, and mass displacement can obscure longer term and structural forms of violence, such as colonialism and gender-based violence. This article explores the displacement, emplacement, and transitivity of trauma through the process of refugee resettlement. It is part of a broader qualitative study that traces how trauma concepts and practices are mobilized in the process of refugee resettlement, specifically for Iraqis who are resettled in the United States. This article argues that trauma is neither a one-time event that is endlessly relived and reactivated in identical episodes nor does trauma emplace a singular geography. Rather, trauma can be understood as a set of serial emplacements and displacements across multiple sites, in our case transnationally. Apart from the distress and geopolitics of war, securitized migration policies produce trauma for people who have been displaced. This trauma of family separation, however, should not be regarded merely as an extension of war-making but as an additional manifestation produced by the global refugee regime.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)715-722
Number of pages8
JournalAnnals of the American Association of Geographers
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by American Association of Geographers.


  • Iraqi refugees
  • displacement
  • feminist
  • geopolitics
  • trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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