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Intercorporeality and the sharability of pain
Linköping University, Department of Medical and Health Sciences, Health and Society. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences. (CEDER)
2013 (English)In: Dimensions of pain: humanities and social science perspectives / [ed] Lisa Folkmarson Käll, London: Routledge , 2013, p. 27-40Chapter in book (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

There is perhaps no experience that better brings to light to us the singularity and solitude of our lives than the experience of pain. Hannah Arendt, for instance, describes the experience of great bodily pain as being “the most private and least communicable of all,” isolating us from others who have no access to the privacy of our experience (1958: 50). When we are in overwhelming and allconsuming pain, we are urgently and immediately present to ourselves without words, images or metaphors to shield us or to connect us in recognizable ways to our surrounding world and to others. There are, as Virginia Woolf writes so fittingly, “no words for the shiver and the headache […] let a sufferer try to describe a pain in his head to a doctor and language at once runs dry” (2002: 7). Elaine Scarry goes further and famously argues that pain does not simply resist language but has the power of destroying language. The experience of acute pain, writes Scarry, transports us back to “a state anterior to language, to the sounds and cries a human being makes before language is learned” (1985: 4). One of the reasons for this resistance to language is that pain is not intentionally directed towards any object in the world and a body in pain is wholly selfreferential. Pain does not relate to anything external and transcendent to it and it is fundamentally not about anything except itself. Even though it is urgently and indubitably present as perhaps the most tangible of experiences, its lack of intentionality at the same time makes pain amorphous and elusive, constituting it as unsharable in essential ways. In the following I partly want to challenge the idea that pain is unsharable. Without denying the privacy of the experience of pain and its often devastating force of isolation, I want to draw attention also to the ways in which pain is sharable and binds us to one another. The sense of sharing I want to bring to light is not one starting out from individual entities such as human bodies but, rather, one that constitutes individual beings and the singularity of their experience. I take seriously the insight that the body in pain is wholly self-referential and turn to the notion of intercorporeality in order to bring out the relationality of embodiment and thereby provide a more comprehensive view of how to understand the self-referentiality of the body in pain. I suggest that the experience of pain brings to light the relationality of embodied subjectivity and the corporeal character of this relationality. It makes manifest embodiment as primarily intercorporeal and the force of isolation as destructively altering the intercorporeal attachments of our bodies, depriving them of the dynamic structure essential to their being and at the same time making these attachments urgently present precisely as damaged and absent.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
London: Routledge , 2013. p. 27-40
Keywords [en]
Pain -- Psychological aspects, perceptio, medicine, Treatment
Keywords [sv]
Smärta -- sociala aspekter
National Category
Other Humanities not elsewhere specified Philosophy
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-91262Libris ID: bnz8f65k8whc0gz7ISBN: 0415635756 (print)ISBN: 9780415635752 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-91262DiVA, id: diva2:616695
Available from: 2013-04-18 Created: 2013-04-18 Last updated: 2020-05-20Bibliographically approved

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