Someone else is singing through your throat

Language, Trauma and Bracha L. Ettinger’s wit(h)nessing


  • Karen Rodriguez


psychoanalysis, second language learning, Mexican Spanish, subjectivities, ethics


This essay asks how a language learner might effect a compassionate listening, in which migrations, colonizations, subjugations and other traumatic events embedded in the other language are both partially heard and partially transformed. Rodriguez refers to artist-psychoanalyst Bracha L. Ettinger’s concept of wit(h)nessing, applying her work in the artistic arena here to the aural one. Drawing examples from Mexican Spanish, Rodriguez constructs a theoretical point of departure for imagining the linguistic encounter with another language as a psychically animated borderspace of links, compassion, and connection in which and through which trauma may be apprehended and reworked. Rodriguez argues that this way of viewing the language encounter offers learners an ethical means for transforming self-other relationships.