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Vol. 14 No. 1 (2022): The Acadians and Wəlastəkokewiyik of the Wəlastəq/ Rivière Saint-Jean and other “Shared Spaces”

Marked by Exile: Trauma and the Grand Dérangement

June 19, 2022


This essay explores the possibilities and pitfalls of viewing the grand dérangement through the lens of the emerging field of trauma studies. Drawing on insights from disciplines as diverse as psychology, social work, biology, and neuroscience, trauma studies has been applied to history only haltingly, and most often in relation to modern events for which first-person accounts are plentiful—the Holocaust, for example. Although early modern people such as eighteenth-century Acadians endured violence and displacement, the limited number and nature of sources that reflect personal experiences makes the application of trauma studies precarious. Recent scholarship on contemporary refugee crises, however, suggests the potential relevance of trauma studies for understanding the impact of the grand dérangement on the Acadian exiles who endured it. With special attention to the influence of divergent “ecologies of displacement” on the grand dérangement’s victims, this essay argues that when carefully delimited, trauma studies can yield a richer portrait of the Acadian diaspora’s impact on an individual scale.