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Trong Nước: a Choreographic Study of Family Trauma

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Like many other Southeast Asian American (“SEAA”) families who fled from war and genocide around the 1970s and through the 1990s, my family avoided discussing their trauma or addressing any

Like many other Southeast Asian American (“SEAA”) families who fled from war and genocide around the 1970s and through the 1990s, my family avoided discussing their trauma or addressing any resulting mental health issues. As I came to internalize patterns that stemmed from my parents’ untreated wounds, without any way of ever truly understanding those wounds, I inevitably developed symptoms of my own trauma, including depression and anxiety. Although the topic of intergenerational trauma (“IGT”) has been discussed in a growing body of research within the specific context of Asian American families that have resettled in western countries, the focus has been on the trauma itself: its development and manifestations in the first (parent) generation and its transmission and impact on the second (offspring) generation. Little has been researched or written about healing and recovery from IGT on an individual level. Due to this gap in the literature, and my background as a dancer and artist, I turned to autoethnography and arts-based research methods to explore pathways to understanding and healing from family trauma. Using a combination of movement-based inquiry and narrative inquiry, I examined both of the following questions: (1) What can performed autoethnography that draws on narrative research as well as inquiry led by movement improvisation and choreographic processes, produce in terms of deeper knowledge about one’s traumas and about new ways of expressing oneself or being in the world? (2) How can such a movement- and somatic-centered autoethnographic research methodology also serve as a recovery modality? Although my family strongly believed the arts, and dance in particular, to serve no purpose other than to get in the way of job security and financial stability, the following research contains implications regarding whether and how families similar to mine could benefit from these practices.

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  • 2020