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Abstract

To more fully understand how trauma can be inflicted by institutional betrayal, in this article I suggest that we first must ask who or what is the institution. To understand this, I analyze two recent events at Johns Hopkins University (JHU), the establishment of a university private police force and funding cuts to the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Graduate Teaching Fellowships (WGS). Paradoxically, JHU claimed it was necessary to establish a private police force because of a lack of accountability of the Baltimore Police Department; however, simultaneously JHU was unaccountable to direct JHU affiliates by ignoring their explicit disapproval of a private police force. JHU imagined themselves as accountable to an ambiguous ‘us’ beyond direct JHU affiliates and dispersed its accountability, evidenced by advocating for state legislature and making mayoral campaign donations. This lack of accountability was rearticulated in discussions about WGS cuts, when JHU embraced a rhetoric of the market to substantiate their claims and evade the questions of direct JHU affiliates. These cases show how articulations of who the institution imagines itself as accountable to are dynamically mutating, yet build upon precedents that set the conditions of possibility for how trauma is produced and mediated. I conclude by suggesting that it is important to move beyond a monolithic conception of the institution, and to be attuned to how dispersions of institutional accountability create new terrains where institutional contestation take place as well as the institution's strategic rupturing of the concept of the institutional citizen.

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