‘Bodies of Pain: Somaesthetic Explorations’ Conference

The Center for Body, Mind, and Culture of Florida Atlantic University invite paper proposals for a conference November 3-4, 2022

Location: FAU’s Boca Raton campus.


Bodies of Pain: Somaesthetic Explorations

Pain seems an inevitable feature of embodied life, and a complex one. Although often identified with a mere physical sensation, pain clearly has its mental or spiritual forms and features. Indeed, even physical pain is experienced as a mental event and seems to bridge the alleged divide between body and mind that somaesthetics contests. While Freud’s pleasure principle and commonsense suggest that our behavior aims at “an absence of pain and unpleasure…and…at the experiencing of strong feelings of pleasure,” our actual conduct displays a willingness to pursue practices (recreational or religious) involving considerable pain and to enjoy pleasures that contain significant admixtures of pain.

We typically consider pain as negative in value, but clearly it has valuable uses. Eastern and Western medical practices often involve pain, which can be part of either progress toward or away from a patient’s recovery. Pains alert us to dangers, from the simple lesson of a hot stove to the somatically felt pangs of recognizing moral wrongs. Pains teach us about the physical and ethical contours of our world, and range in variety and intensity, from disturbing discomfort to excruciating agony. These multiple manifestations find significant expression in the arts as well as in countless fields of academic research. Having focused largely on pleasures and beauty, somaesthetics should examine more closely the realm of pain and consider the most promising ways to understand it, ways that go beyond mere palliative care. As pain has an extensive history (including long narratives of painful oppression and persecution), it would also be interesting to learn from past cultural modes of handling pain and its uses.

The conference is open to contributions from diverse disciplinary perspectives in the humanities (including medical humanities), social sciences, and the arts, but also to pertinent contributions from therapeutic fields dealing with pain. Selected papers may be developed for publication in The Journal of Somaesthetics (https://journals.aau.dk/index.php/JOS) or in an edited book based on the conference papers to be published in the Brill book series Studies in Somaesthetics: https://brill.com/view/serial/SIS

Please email your abstract and CV to both [email protected] and [email protected]. The deadline for submission of abstracts is August 20, 2022. Notifications of acceptances will be sent out September 20th, 2022.