Center for Global Development and Sustainability

The Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University

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Historical Trauma and Trauma-informed Sustainable International Development

Within the field of sustainable international development, the impacts of psychological trauma have not traditionally been addressed.  Particularly in marginalized communities, trauma impacts often include a myriad of physical, psychosocial, and structural disparities and challenges.  This inquiry examines the ways in which contemporary trauma and Historical Trauma are defined, experienced, and interconnected, within diverse cultural contexts.  Many communities and groups which experience social exclusion have also experienced Historical Trauma, defined by Dr. Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart as “the cumulative emotional and psychological wounding over the lifespan and across generations, emanating from massive group trauma” (1995).  Our research group is supporting multi-faceted discourse on Historical Trauma to ultimately establish a trauma-informed approach to sustainable international development practice, through the acknowledgement and integration of trauma, trauma impacts, and paths to resiliency.  Research questions include:  How can experiences of trauma and Historical Trauma be acknowledged in diverse cultural contexts?  How are contemporary traumatic impacts (individual and collective) connected to historical events?  By what means are traumatic impacts transmitted inter-generationally?  What types of intervention support resiliency transmission and interrupt trauma transmission?  How can acts of acknowledgment, reclamation, restitution, and self-determination embedded in development initiatives support sustainability?   In a global context of increasing fracture, migration, and intergroup conflict, this inquiry seeks to understand and increase development effectiveness from an interdisciplinary, trauma-informed approach.

Eamon Anderson, MSW, LCSW, MA’16, GDS Affiliated Expert

Eamon Anderson’s work focuses on the integration of historical trauma theory for sustainable development initiatives with marginalized communities.  Eamon has over 15 years of direct practice and supervisory experience in the fields of community development, child welfare, and trauma.  She currently serves as a crisis clinician with a Boston-area psychiatric emergency services team.  Previously, she served at the National Native Children’s Trauma Center (a Category II Trauma Center with the National Child Traumatic Stress Network) at the University of Montana in the capacity of Child Welfare Research and Program Specialist.  Eamon provided training and technical assistance to professionals in child welfare, mental health, law enforcement, courts, education, foster care, and community members throughout the state and country in the content areas of child traumatic stress, historical trauma, and secondary traumatic stress.  She worked in partnership with American Indian Tribes, Tribal groups, and child welfare workers to culturally adapt and implement trauma-informed practices and interventions, in addition to providing expertise in trauma-informed juvenile justice, suicide prevention, and the Adverse Childhood Experiences study.  Eamon has lived and worked cross-culturally in many contexts including rural villages, orphanages, emergency shelters, nonprofit foundations and child protection agencies.  She currently works as an independent consultant to conduct trauma-informed training with child-serving NGOs, government agencies, and volunteer organizations internationally. 

Anderson, Eamon (2018, February 20). Roma Slavery is Historical TraumaFXB Center for Health & Human Rights, Harvard University, MA, USA.

Anderson, Eamon (2016). The De-pathologizing Power of Historical Trauma Theory in Development: Toward an Intergenerational Transmission of Healing (Master's thesis). The Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University, USA.

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