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In this book, Ron Eyerman explores the formation of the African-American identity through the theory of cultural trauma. The trauma in question is slavery, not as an institution or as personal experience, but as collective memory: a pervasive remembrance that grounded a people's sense of itself. Combining a broad narrative sweep with more detailed studies of important events and individuals, Eyerman reaches from Emancipation through the Harlem Renaissance, the Depression, the New Deal and the Second World War to the Civil Rights movement and beyond. He offers insights into the intellectual and generational conflicts of identity-formation which have a truly universal significance, as well as providing a compelling account of the birth of African-American identity. Anyone interested in questions of assimilation, multiculturalism and postcolonialism will find this book indispensable.
'The international social-scientific readership is by now trained to expect from Ron Eyerman research of the highest calibre and an above average quantity of insights and original observations … and the reader won't be disappointed … In this book, as in previous books, Eyerman explores a well-travelled ground but brings from his expedition findings which make it not seem to have been familiar at all. Eyerman has chosen to investigate trauma as a factor of identity formation and for that reason the importance of his findings reaches far beyond the challenging task of understanding African-American history. Trauma, genuine or retrospectively construed, processed by the sieve of intellectually recycled memo, acquires in the age of brand new and newly reawakened nationalisms, a truly universal significance.' Zygmuunt Baumann, Leeds University
'Ron Eyerman has written an extremely fascinating, intellectually exciting book showing how the cultural trauma of slavery has influenced African-American identity, from the period of slavery itself until the present.' Canadian Journal of Sociology Online
'Eyerman does well to incorporate blacks' globalized consciousness and to contextualize their shifting perspectives and concerns. This ambitious attempt to provide a framework for explaining black identity and social movements since emancipation offers intriguing insights that merit consideration.' Journal of American History