Accepted Paper:

Trajectories in pain  

Author:

Gabriella Aspraki (University of Crete)

Paper short abstract:

With few exceptions pain has been described in the literature as the epitome of the subjective, the inarticulate, the a-social. Here I draw on ethnographic fieldwork with chronic pain sufferers to reflect on pain as a dynamic field of relationships rather than as private experience.

Paper long abstract:

With few exceptions, chronic pain has been discussed in the relevant literature as the epitome of the subjective, the inarticulate, the a-social. Pain is discussed as a sensation and feeling which can be neither communicated in language nor perceived by the observer's senses. In this sense, pain constitutes an experience strictly private to the subject in pain. Pain is also private in the sense that it appears to engulf the subject and disrupt her social world.

Yet, despite the above, pain is a socially and culturally constituted experience. Pain's very designation as chronic derives through long, and as a rule, painful trajectories of the subject among a multitude of fields and relationships of mutual determination. From self-healing to folk healing practices and from biomedicine to alternative healers the subject in pain becomes a chronic pain sufferer. Life trajectories might be private but are not solitary; their pain constitutes a field of encounter and negotiation among people in pain, their close ones, doctors and carers, insurance organizations and work place. Through these encounters with self and others, the subject makes meaning of her experience and re-organizes her social world. In this presentation:

• I draw on ethnographic fieldwork with chronic pain sufferers

• I use a life history to reflect on trajectories in pain

• I attempt to see pain as a dynamic field of relationships rather than as private experience.

Panel W014
From medical pluralism to therapeutic plurality: medical anthropology and the politics of diversity, knowledge, and experience from multiple perspectives