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American Sociological Association




Cultural traumas are socially mediated processes that occur when groups endure horrific events that forever change their consciousness and identity. According to cultural sociologists, these traumas arise out of shocks to the routine or the taken for granted. Understanding such traumas is critical for developing solutions that can address group suffering. Using the African American community’s response to the not guilty verdict in the Emmett Till murder trial as a case study, this article extends cultural trauma theory by explicating how cultural traumas can arise not only when routines are disrupted but also when they are maintained and reaffirmed in a public or official manner. In so doing, this article analyzes the interplay between the history or accumulation of the “routine” harm at issue, the shocking or unusual occurrences that frequently precede such “routine” harms, the harm itself, and public discourse about such harm’s meaning in cultivating a cultural trauma narrative.



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