This study in an endeavor to argue that a post-9/11 narrative like Porochista Khakpourâ€™s Sons and Other Flammable Objects assigns a new meaning to an event like 9/11, and tries to reconstitute the identity of Khakpourâ€™s ethnic collectivity around this newly-defined event. In this study, we argue that Jeffrey C. Alexanderâ€™s theory of Cultural Trauma can provide us with a more meaningful framework for the study of post 9/11 diasporic identities. In Cultural Trauma and Collective Identity, Alexander believes that, unlike what Psychoanalytic and Enlightenment theories of Trauma posit, events cannot be inherently traumatic; thus, he contends that trauma should be studied as a social construct because events cannot be considered traumatic regardless of the social sphere in which they unfold. For Alexander, â€œCultural trauma occurs when members of a collectivity feel they have been subjected to a horrendous event that leaves indelible marks upon their group consciousness, â€¦and their future identity in fundamental and irrevocable waysâ€ (1). Consequently, when such an event happens, says Alexander, â€œCollective actors â€˜decideâ€™ to represent social pain as a fundamental threat to their sense of who they are, where they came from, and where they want to goâ€ (10 Emphasis Added). Alexanderâ€™s epistemological approach to trauma is not concerned with the authenticity or morality of the social actorsâ€™ narratives; rather it equips us with some fundamental questions about the relationship between the representation of the event and the collectivityâ€™s communal pain. Accordingly, applying Alexanderâ€™s theory to Khakpourâ€™s novel will enable us to account for the marginalized identity of Iranians in the wake of 9/11 attacks. Khakpourâ€™s approach to 9/11 and its impact on the lives of the Adams turns the book into a socially constructed narrative that captures the communal grief and predicament of most Iranians, symbolized in the Adam familyâ€™s bewildering limbo state of between and betwix in a new country which allows neither nostalgic yearning for the homeland nor complete assimilation. Ultimately, this study will argue that a social constructivist approach to trauma in Khakpourâ€™s novel will reveal the perennial predicaments of immigration and integration in diasporic communities.
Keywords: Cultural trauma, diaspora, 9/11 fiction, double-consciousness