Fortvilelse (‘Despair’, detail, 1892) by Edvard Munch. Courtesy the Munch Museum, Oslo
Medical science can only tell us so much. To understand pain, we need the cultural tools of history, philosophy and art
By Rob Boddice, is a senior research fellow at HEX, the Academy of Finland Centre of Excellence in the History of Experiences at Tampere University. His books include Feeling Dis-Ease in Modern History (edited with Bettina Hitzer, 2022), Humane Professions (2021) and Emotion, Sense, Experience (with Mark Smith, 2020). His next book, Knowing Pain: A History of Sensation, Emotion, and Experience, will be published in May 2023.
Pain experience is not a human universal. It has a history. It changes over time and from place to place. Elaborating this history exposes the politics at the core of attempts to measure, validate or dismiss the experience of people in pain.
The language of pain, stretching back…
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