Accepted Paper:

Persistent attachments: chronic pain and the post-ANT theoretical repertoire  


Else Vogel (University of Amsterdam)

Paper short abstract:

The paper details rehabilitation practices where persistent pain is configured as an effect of ambiguous and heterogeneous sets of attachments. I explore how these therapies, that enact lives as always becoming-in-relation, help to self-reflexively sharpen post-ANT analytic terms and attachments.

Paper long abstract:

The paper explores a striking parallel between the post-ANT theoretical repertoire, which foregoes causal explanations in favour of tracing 'actors-enacted' (Law & Mol 2008) in practices, and therapeutic efforts to perform active self-caring subjects in rehabilitation practices for chronic pain and fatigue. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork, I show that the focus in these clinics lies on 'doing oneself well' in order to create space that prevents people from entirely succumbing to their pain. Profound considerations of what is good or meaningful come to the fore in very mundane practices such as walking, cooking and playing. I detail the everyday life scenes in which this frail process of personal transformation unfolds, while highlighting how medical treatment trajectories shape these transformations, both practically and normatively. Through introducing knowledge, techniques and socialities, people with chronic pain are invited to leave a world of substances, in which pain is enacted as the result of tissue damage, to inhabit a world of patterns, responses and processes. Persistent pain is thus configured as an effect of ambiguous and heterogeneous sets of attachments. Part of the task of rehabilitation patients face is exploring and appreciating the quality of attachments, and then releasing and adjusting them. The self-cultivation processes I describe are not threatened by the possibility of breakage, but haunted by blockage, passivity and closure. Focusing on the STS analytic sensitivity for multiplicity, heterogeneity and relationality, I explore how therapies that enact lives as becoming-in-relation help to self-reflexively sharpen material semiotic terms and attachments.

Panel B05
Crafting attachments, making worlds