The Engaging Side Of Pain

Convenors: Federica Manfredi (University of Lisbon) & Dario Naardini (University of Milano-Bicocca)

Contacts: federicamanfredi@hotmail.fr, d.nardini@campus.unimib.it

Pain is a well-known experience for many people. It can originate from a chronic disease or an accident, but it can also be embraced as a conscious experience. Pain can be associated to body limits and social taboo, courage demonstrations and elements funding gender definition; a captivating pole of attraction as well as an obstacle that the individual accepts to deal with in order to get to something else.
Going beyond a medical approach, this panel is interested in people who embrace limits and pain as a voluntary active choice. The pain originating by intense training sessions in sportive practices, or labor pains embraced by women who refuse epidural anesthesia, are examples of embodied limit conditions, socialized and celebrated by contemporary Western society. However, other forms of pain are stigmatized and hence practitioners develop narrative strategies of legitimation for their experience, as in the case of contemporary body suspensions or intensive body modifications, where pain constitutes a self-making device.
Understanding pain as an embodied (Csordas 1990, Jackson 2011), sensitive (Howes 1991; Stoller 1997; Pink 2015) and emplaced experience (Ingold 2000, 2011), we welcome contributions where it is conceived as a limit, a means, or a body experience challenging daily routine in Western culture.
Working on pain constitutes an investigative defiance for social researchers. According to a phenomenological perspective, language risks substituting itself for the world. “It is all too easy for us to forget that people feel pain and joy, and think in ways that cannot be readily captured in words” (Jackson 1994: 24). The oral narratives stood out as difficult to translate (Scarry, 1985; DelVecchio Good, Brodwin, Good, Kleinman 1992; Le Breton 1995).
The present panel calls scholars engaged in exploring the meanings of pain, proposing a space of discussion for methodological choices, researchers’ positioning strategies, forms of experience understood as painful and meanings associated to them, interpreted as conventional or subversive. Conceiving ethnographical evidences as the main object of our debate, we welcome proposals based both on participative carnal approaches (Wacquant 2000) and conventional participant observation, as well as experimental practices exploring pioneering strategies of qualitative investigation (Estalella, Sánchez Criado 2018).

Open Questions

- What is a painful experience?

- Which meanings are associated to pain in different social groups and contexts?

- When and why is pain deliberately chosen by individuals and groups?

- As social researchers, how can we explore the sensory experience of pain?

Keywords

Pain, body, limit, stigma, ethnography, embodiment, embodied practices.

Fields of Study

Anthropology of sport, Anthropology of the body, Medical anthropology, Sociology, Psychology.

References

Csordas, T.J. (1990), “Embodiment as a Paradigm for Anthropology”, Ethos, 18 (1), pp. 5-47.

Ingold, T. (2000), The perception of the environment, London, Routledge.

DelVecchio Good, M-J., Brodwin, P. E., Good, B. J., Kleinman, A. (eds.) (1992), Pain as human experience. An anthropological perspective, Berkeley – Los Angeles, University of California Press.

Estalella, A., Sánchez Criado, T. (2018), Experimental collaborations: Ethnography through fieldwork devices. New York, Berghan Books.

Ingold, T. (2011), “Worlds of sense and sensing the world: a response to Sarah Pink and David Howes”. Social Anthropology, 19 (13), pp. 313-317.

Jackson, J. (2011), “Pain and Bodies”. In F. Mascia-Lees (ed.), A companion to the anthropology of the body and embodiment, Blackwell, Blackwood, pp. 370-387.

Le Breton, D. (1995), Anthropologie de la douleur, Paris, Metaillé.

Pink, S. (2009), Doing sensory ethnography. Second edition, London, Routledge.

Scarry, E. (1985), The body in pain. The making and unmaking of the world, New York, Oxford University Press.

Stoller, P. (1997), Sensuous Scholarship, Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press.

Wacquant, L. (2000), Corps et âme. Carnets ethnographiques d’un apprenti boxeur, Marseilles, Agone.

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