BSP Podcast: Nicole Miglio and Jessica Stanier on pain and the intersubjective self

podcast update

Continuing Season Five of the BSP Podcast, Nicole Miglio and Jessica Stanier with a presentation from our 2020 annual conference.

Season 5 episode 98: 19 December 2020

We approach the close of the first part of season five with another presentation from our 2020 annual conference: ‘Engaged Phenomenology’ Online. This episode features Nicole Miglio (San Raffaele University) and Jessica Stanier (Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health, University of Exeter). Jessie was one of the organisers of the 2020 annual conference, set the theme of ‘Engaged Phenomenology’, and will be back next week for the 100th episode of the BSP Podcast conducting a special interview to celebrate this milestone. Before that, here Nicole teams up with Jessie to explore ‘Painful experience and constitution of the intersubjective self’, based on their soon to be published book chapter.

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Nicole Miglio and Jessica Stanier
‘Painful experience and constitution of the intersubjective self: a critical-phenomenological analysis’

This presentation is based on a book chapter due to be published soon in Phenomenology of Bioethics and Technoethics (ed. S. Ferrarello; Springer).

ABSTRACT: Pain is ordinary and integral to our experiential topography; a ‘background texture’ of pain characterises our whole lives. I flinch away from a hot pan as it brushes against my arm at the stove. I absent-mindedly rub my shoulder, relieving the dull ache from sitting at my desk too long. If we consider these routine and mundane ways in which pain features in everyday experience, it becomes clear that – far from presenting only through unusual and excruciating events – pain is familiar and, in many ways, vital for navigating the world. Pain draws our attention to our bodies as they pertain to our surroundings. And while everyday pain is often a far cry from the overwhelming agony of extreme injury, it is nonetheless recognisable as pain across these various contexts. Pain relief and treatment is a huge global pharmaceutical industry, based on a medical conception of pain as a set of quantifiable and calculable conditions in a physiological body. This notion of pain fails to account for social and political contexts which constitute subjects in pain, as they are alternately marginalised, disbelieved, prioritised, or cared for; the status of their painful experience garners significance in this relational intersubjective context. By taking a critical-phenomenological approach, this paper seeks to critique and further reductionistic conceptions of pain by better accounting for the complex contextual and intersubjective variation of painful experiences. We articulate how painful experience involves several phenomenological levels – from the hyletic to the intersubjective – differentially affected by the subject’s social, political, and cultural situation. We suggest that this critical-phenomenological account might be integrated into lifeworld-based approaches to care and treatment of pain, through social and political engagement, as well as raising some critical points of investigation for phenomenology in itself.


Nicole Miglio is a PhD Student at San Raffaele University (Milan). She’s carrying her doctoral research in several institutions, in the U.S. (George Washington University and The University of San Francisco), in the UK (University of Exeter), and in Israel (University of Haifa). Her background is in theoretical philosophy and aesthetics, but she is working especially in the field of Feminist phenomenology. She is currently writing her PhD dissertation, which is exploring the many philosophical facets of the gestating subjectivity, considering both the classical accounts (Husserl, Merleau-Ponty, Arendt, Beauvoir) and the contemporary ways to think the experiential complexity of the gestational relationship. She is co-supervised by Prof. Chiara Cappelletto (Aesthetics), Prof. Francesca de Vecchi (Phenomenology and Social ontology), and Prof. Marjolein Oele (Contemporary European Philosophy).

Jessie Stanier is a PhD student at the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health at the University of Exeter. She takes an engaged approach to her study of phenomenology, ageing, and older age by collaborating with various people affected by the lived realities of ageing and caring. In her PhD thesis, she aims to shed new light on normative determinants of ageing and how they affect lived experiences and possibilities for older people. She co-hosted this year’s BSP conference online, and she is currently co-editing a Special Issue of Puncta: Journal of Critical Phenomenology on ‘Pandemic Politics & Phenomenology’.

This recording is taken from the BSP Annual Conference 2020 Online: ‘Engaged Phenomenology’. Organised with the University of Exeter and sponsored by Egenis and the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health. BSP2020AC was held online this year due to global concerns about the Coronavirus pandemic. For the conference our speakers recorded videos, our keynotes presented live over Zoom, and we also recorded some interviews. Podcast episodes from BSP2020AC are soundtracks of those videos where we and the presenters feel the audio works as a standalone:

The British Society for Phenomenology is a not-for-profit organisation set up with the intention of promoting research and awareness in the field of Phenomenology and other cognate arms of philosophical thought. Currently, the society accomplishes these aims through its journal, events, and podcast. Why not find out more, join the society, and subscribe to our journal the JBSP?