The Trigger Warning and the Pathologizing White Rhetoric of Trauma-Informed Pedagogy

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Mara Lee Grayson


In this article, I analyze the trigger warning, a pedagogical practice often framed as student-responsive and trauma-informed, to elucidate the ways in which trauma-informed pedagogy functions rhetorically to pathologize and individualize experiences of racism and other societal inequities that cause collective trauma. I draw upon original interview data and rhetorical analysis through a systems framework to explore how reductive pedagogical practices developed within the confines of a white, western notion of trauma may subsequently perpetuate students’ marginalization. Finally, I highlight the potential for more comprehensive, inclusive pedagogies to address student trauma, acknowledge societal conditions that impact individual experiences, and shift popular discourse that pathologizes trauma.   

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