What is Trauma in a Digital Age?

6:00 pm - 7:30 pm
Portland Forum in Innovation Hall
Portland Campus
Catherine Liu
Free and open to the public

This talk looks at the ways in which traumatic experiences can be communicated, framed and marketed in the digital age: rather than condemn social media as the site that produces the possibility of commodifying one's most painful experiences, Professor Liu seeks to situate contemporary phenomenon of trauma narratives in the context of the 1990s, the rise of trauma studies, and the configuration of therapy by an increasingly powerful class of liberal professionals and academics. Liu looks at the ways in which sustained economic trauma and the injuries of class were suppressed in the name of “witnessing” a series of historical events that supported Francis Fukuyama's idea that history had ended and that liberalism had triumphed. Social media was able to create an algorithmic advantage in online self-exposure that Liu will argue does nothing for authentic personal or collective healing, but simply increases our dependency on for profit platforms of mutual surveillance.


Catherine Liu is Professor of Film and Media Studies at UC Irvine. She is the author of Virtue Hoarders: The Case Against the Professional Managerial Class (University of Minnesota Press, 2021) and American Idyll: Academic Anti-Elitism as Cultural Critique (University of Iowa Press, 2011). She has published extensively on critical theory and New Taiwan Cinema and psychoanalysis. She is also a novelist, the author of Oriental Girls Desire Romance (Kaya Press 1997 and 2011) and is completing a memoir called Panda Gifts.

Assigned Reading

Catherine Liu, Virtue Hoarders: the Case Against the Professional Managerial Class (University of Minnesota Press, 2021)


Portland Forum in Innovation Hall
716 Stevens Avenue
Portland, ME 04103
United States