Pain as Emotion; Emotion as Pain: Perspectives from Modern History
Public conference, 26 October 2012
The Birkbeck Pain Project and the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, Birkbeck, University of London
Organised by Visiting Fellow to the Birkbeck Pain Project, Rob Boddice, Ph.D (Languages of Emotion Cluster, Freie Universität, Berlin)
‘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. Possible paper topics include, but are not limited to:
• Pain and emotion in the laboratory
• Emotional pain and physiology
• Measuring pain, clinically and/or in the vernacular, in historical context
• Imagining pain in others (humans/animals): compassion, sympathy, empathy
• Emotions as pain: grief, anxiety, fear, anger, etc.
• Expressions of the feeling(s) of pain
• Influence of emotions on bodily pain
• Psychology and pain
• Pain and sentiment(ality)
• Turning off (emotional) pain: brutality, callousness, anaesthetics
Please send abstracts of up to 500 words and a short CV by email to the Birkbeck Pain Project (firstname.lastname@example.org) by May 1st, 2012. Questions may be directed to the Pain Project and/or to Rob Boddice (email@example.com)
The workshop will take place at Birkbeck, London University – further information including registration details will be available in May 2012 (http://www.bbk.ac.uk/bih/). There is no fee to attend or register for the Workshop.
More information regarding The Birkbeck Pain Project is available on the Project website (http://www.bbk.ac.uk/history/our-research/birkbeckpainproject).
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