Broken Lives? Reflections on the Anthropology of Exile and Repair

David P. Lumsden


This article provides a rethinking of
the concept of' exile and promotes
its utility regarding both the
externally and the internally displaced.
It does so from the
perspective of Medical
Anthropology. A number of variables
affecting and shaping the morality,
performance, nature and
outcomes of exile are identified.
Edward Said's views are discussed;
but, must exiles always and forever
be viewed or be felt as 'broken
lives'? The article argues against a
naive presumption of 'universalism'
to exile's embodied experience and
response; instead, the specificities of
cultural meaning systems must be
taken into account. Further, it argues
against analysts' common presumption
of pathology and 'posttraumatic
stress disorder' among
exiles; instead, evidence for 'agency'
and 'resilience' in exile populations'
health and coping through time must
also, and explicitly, be recognized.
Finally, where lives are 'broken', the
potential of Truth Commissions and
'forgiveness' to be practices of
collective repair is noted. Examples
are drawn from Africa, Bosnia,
Cambodia, Chile, China, Holocaust
survivors, and Tibet.

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