Representations of Cultural Trauma in the Hebrew Bible


The Hebrew Bible frequently refers to collective experiences of disasters and crises. We investigate the interrelationship between biblical representations of collective suffering and the creation of collective identity in ancient Israel and emerging Judaism in light of the category of cultural trauma. According to Alexander, “Cultural trauma occurs when members of a collectivity feel they have been subjected to a horrendous event that leaves indelible marks upon their group consciousness, marking their memories forever and changing their future identity in fundamental and irrevocable ways” (2004: 1). From this perspective, several factors contribute to shaping the cultural trauma of social groups and societies, among which the creation and transmission of symbolic representations of the events at stake are crucial. We explore biblical texts such as collective laments, curses, narratives, etc. not only as texts representing and voicing the community’s experience of catastrophic events, but also as tools to shape cultural trauma in ancient Israel and emerging Judaism. Additionally, we explore relevant texts as “equipment for living” (Burke 1998) for the addressed community, namely as the literary and religious heritage through which the carrier groups of biblical texts attempted to build cultural resilience by coping with and giving meaning to collective suffering.



Cultural Trauma, Collective Trauma, Collective Identity, Hebrew Bible


Dominik Markl

Pontifical Biblical Institute

Danilo Verde
KU Leuven

Member Area

Toulouse 2022 Call for Papers

We welcome paper proposals that use Alexander’s theory of “cultural trauma” and other theories from the fields of sociology and cultural studies to explore the texts of the Hebrew Bible. In particular, we welcome papers focusing on the role of carrier groups in shaping cultural trauma. Abstracts should contain the following elements: scope, main thesis, case study, methodology, and explanation of the importance of the work.