Pain has always constituted a central human experience. Yet recently the stakes involved in discussions of pain have become particularly high. We can see this in recent debates about torture, war, and the death penalty; discussions of the politics of representing, historicizing, and describing pain; changes in medical and alternative approaches to both chronic and acute pain; and attempts to control the spiraling cost of health care. Engaging these issues requires interdisciplinary cooperation. By bringing together some of the most interesting thinkers on these topics in a wide variety of different fields, we hope to help move these conversations forward.
“Pain: An Interdisciplinary Conference” will include speakers from a wide variety of different disciplines—medicine, law, anthropology, history, literature, and art history—to discuss the nature, implications, and experience of pain. We will consider the ways in which pain can be defined trans-historically and the extent to which its meaning and consequences are culturally specific. We will discuss the nature of social suffering. We will consider the aesthetics of pain and the problems pain poses for representation. And we will ask what legal, political, and social challenges pain poses in a variety of different national and affective contexts. The conference will take place over the course of three days and consist of eight plenary talks and a concluding round-table. The conference is free and open to the public. For additional information and to register, please see the Humanities Institute website.