Pain as Emotion; Emotion as Pain: Perspectives from Modern History

Event date: 26 October 2012

Room B04

Birkbeck Main Building

University of London

Malet Street, Bloomsbury

London WC1E 7HX

The Birkbeck Pain Project & Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities present:

Pain as Emotion; Emotion as Pain: Perspectives from Modern History

‘With the benefit of the past two centuries of scientific work and thought, can one define pain?’ The question was asked by the neuroscientist Edward R. Perl (Nature Reviews: Neuroscience, 8, 2007). He concluded that ‘it seems reasonable to propose pain to be both a specific sensation and an emotion’.

With that, the question of physiological pain opens up to those who study the history of emotions, which in turn gives way to new possibilities of understanding the historical and cultural contingencies of physical pain. The statement also begs the question of the extent to which emotion is in fact pain, if pain is in part emotion. Should the histories of anger, fear, anxiety, grief and compassion be studied as varieties of pain? In what ways have they been understood to have a physiological component? Likewise in histories in which physical pain plays a prominent part – the history of medicine notably – how far should our understanding of pain be influenced by the study of emotionologies that determine how the feeling of pain is expressed? How have emotional contexts affected the experience of pain?

This one-day conference will approach these questions by focusing broadly on the dynamics of the emotional, cultural and medical history of pain in the modern period. The conference aims to foster discussion on the importance of emotion as it relates to physical pain and on emotions themselves as varieties of pain, among experts working on the history of science/medicine, the history of the body, and the history of emotions, with perspectives from a variety of national contexts.

Programme

Welcome: Joanna Bourke (Birkbeck, University of London)

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Introduction: Rob Boddice (Freie Universität)

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Panel 1:   Pain, Metaphor and Medicine

  • David Biro (State University of New York) – Psychological Pain: Metaphor or Reality?

AUDIO HERE

  • Sheena Culley (Kingston University) – Killing Pain: Aspirin and the Emotional

             AUDIO HERE

Panel 1 Questions:

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Panel 2:  Second-hand Pain and the Pain of Others

  • Linda Raphael (George Washington University) – Imagining the Other: Two Cases of Desire and Resistance

             AUDIO HERE

  • Liz Gray (Queen Mary, University of London) – “The writhing of a worm…”: The Role of Pain in Developing Ideas of Comparative Psychology

             AUDIO HERE

  • James Burnham Sedgwick (Acadia University) – Observing Pain, Pain in Observing: Collateral Emotions in International Courts

             AUDIO HERE

Panel 2 Questions:

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 Panel 3: Scripting Pain in Mind and Body

  • Whitney Wood (Wilfrid Laurier University) – “When I think of what is before me, I feel afraid”: Delicate Women and the Pain of Childbirth in Late-Victorian Canada

             AUDIO HERE

  • Daniel Grey (Wolfson College, Oxford) – “The agony of despair”: Pain and the Cultural Script of Infanticide in England and Wales, 1860-1960

             AUDIO HERE

  • Paolo Santangelo (Sapienza University of Rome) – The Perception of Pain in late-Imperial China

             AUDIO HERE

Panel 3 Questions:

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Announcement on future events by Carmen Mangion (Birkbeck).

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Panel 4: The Image of Pain

  • Johanna Willenfelt (University of Gothenburg) – Documenting Bodies: Pain Surfaces

             AUDIO HERE

  • Danny Rees (Wellcome Library) – Down in the Mouth: Faces of Pain

             AUDIO HERE

accompanying images

Panel 4 Questions:

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 Closing Remarks:

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