Keith Wailoo – Pain with a ‘Psychogenic Overlay’: The Gendered Politics of Experience and Disability in US Society

Event Date: 24 – 25 March 2017

Room G15 and G16
Birkbeck Main Building
Birkbeck, University of London
Torrington Square
London WC1E 7HX

The Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities in association with the Birkbeck Trauma Project presents:


Gender and Pain in Modern History

In 2012, The Journal of Pain published a definitive study about the relationship between gender and pain, showing that for the vast majority of ailments, women reported significantly higher levels of pain (approximately twenty per cent higher) than men. In a variety of historical contexts, the female body has been associated with heightened sensitivity of various types. These images were borne out by cultural representations of female delicacy. However, female bodies have also been singled out for their ability to bear heightened pain, especially during childbirth. Representations of male stoicism (or perceived lack thereof) in the face of pain have also been a powerful image in many contexts. Women and men have long been thought to experience bodily sensations including discomfort and pain in a variety of culturally and historically specific ways: pain has routinely been gendered.

This two-day conference focuses on the historical relationship(s) between gender and pain between the early modern period and the present day. It aims to foster discussion among experts working on women’s history, the history of masculinity, and the history of gender; the history of science, health, and medicine; and the history of the body, with perspectives from a variety of national contexts and disciplinary backgrounds.

Keynote 1:

Professor Keith Wailoo (Princeton University) – Pain with a ‘Psychogenic Overlay’: The Gendered Politics of Experience and Disability in US Society

Introduction by Professor Joanna Bourke (Birkbeck):


accompanying images:

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