Rethinking the moral in narrating trauma: Ethnographic insights on clinical reasoning

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1 Scopus citations


This article explores the moral dimensions of the clinical narration of suffering in a highly political context. Based on an ethnographic analysis of psychotherapists’ discussions of a clinical case related to the Israeli evacuation from Gaza, I illustrate how the care providers navigate competing moral logics while explaining the reasons for the patient's experience. Capturing moments of the simultaneous appearance of different explanatory models, informed by contradictory moral grammars, during the process of clinical reasoning allowed me to obtain a complex and nuanced picture of social reality in which the experience of the patient simultaneously appeared as both a success and a failure of communal education. The ethnographic observation and analysis of clinical reasoning challenge the assumed connection between practitioners’ ideological identifications and their narration of suffering, and allow moving beyond the idea of coherent moral subjects who act according to a priori moral values informed by political ideology. This perspective is particularly significant for the field of traumatic suffering because it questions the moral grammar of trauma narratives that imply unambiguous and idealized distinctions between victims, perpetrators, and witnesses, revealing the complex dynamics of suffering and caring.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)214-224
Number of pages11
JournalTranscultural Psychiatry
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2022


  • Israel
  • anthropology of the moral
  • clinical reasoning
  • ethnography
  • moral experience
  • trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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