Sujit Thomas

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

New York U.

Grant number

Gr. 10034

Approve Date

August 26, 2020

Project Title

Thomas, Sujit (New York U.) "Trauma Between Concept and Experience: Neuroscientific Engagements in American Psychiatry"

SUJIT THOMAS, then a graduate student at New York University, New York, New York, was awarded a grant in August 2020 to aid research on “Trauma Between Concept and Experience: Neuroscientific Engagements in American Psychiatry,” supervised by Dr. Emily Martin. Over the course of 12 months (July 2020- July 2021), Support funded research in two labs, one each in New York and Pittsburgh. Pandemic restrictions limited in-person access to these labs and roughly 60% of the research took place over Zoom. The research followed the efforts of neuroscientists and clinical psychologists to reformulate the category of PTSD in Western biomedicine at a time when neurobiologically informed models of mental illness colonize global psychiatry, making it more attuned to phenomenologically oriented, environmentally attuned and spatio-temporally anchored manifestations of traumatic experiences rather than to the extraction and invocation of dispositive events in the past. Emerging neurofeedback and psychedelic therapies (MDMA), combined with neuroimaging work supplied a counterpoint to established biomedical paradigms for trauma and presented novel opportunities to reflect on the nature of traumatic experiences in the face of the pandemic. As the research unfolded, the peculiar challenges for the conceptualization and treatment of post-pandemic trauma became increasingly central to the work of researcher’s interlocutors, many of whom were medical professionals, and generated a vast amount of material concerning the improvisatory and anticipatory work involved in negotiating new forms of trauma in the wake of a collective tragedy through neuroscience and psychedelics.