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Pain as Emotion; Emotion as Pain: Perspectives from Modern History
Friday, 26 October 2012 from 09:00 to 17:00
London, United Kingdom
Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities & Birkbeck Pain Project
Organised by Dr Rob Boddice (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.
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Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities
The Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities (BIH) is an interdisciplinary institute within Birkbeck, University of London which engages with important public issues of our time through a series of open debates, lectures, seminars and conferences. The Institute attempts to promote new ideas and forms of understanding in the humanities, hosting many events with the highly rated Birkbeck Humanities research departments in cross-disciplinary work. It also provides short-term fellowships for a small number of scholars from Britain and overseas, chosen in open competition and invites prominent writers, broadcasters and public figures to spend short periods at the Institute.