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Book and Media Reviews
March 11, 2009

Understanding Trauma: Integrating Biological, Clinical, and Cultural Perspectives

JAMA. 2009;301(10):1070-1071. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.266

This book has something to offer almost anyone interested in the effects of psychological trauma on individuals and communities. It is crafted to integrate knowledge of trauma responses across the disciplines of neurobiology, clinical science, and anthropology and is organized by sections primarily associated with each discipline. The conceptualization of the book emerged from a series of workshops organized and funded by the Foundation for Psychosocial Research in 2001 and 2002. The editors acknowledge that “In modest ways this integration occurred” (p 475) and that “Each discipline used markedly different styles of reasoning, rhetoric, and presentation” (pp 476-477). The greatest degree of integration occurred between the neuroscientists and the clinicians. During the conference discussions—and as is evident in the style of the chapters—“the anthropologists seemed nonplussed at the inevitability of bullet points, graphs, and tables in the neuroscience presentations, whereas the neuroscientists were frustrated by the uncharted narratives that unfolded as the anthropologists read their papers.”