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    Pain sensitivity: an unnatural history from 1800 to 1965

    Bourke, Joanna (2014) Pain sensitivity: an unnatural history from 1800 to 1965. Journal of Medical Humanities 35 (3), pp. 301-319. ISSN 1041-3545.

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    Who was truly capable of experiencing pain? In this article, I explore ideas about the distribution of bodily sensitivity in patients from the early nineteenth century to 1965 in Anglo-American societies. While certain patients were regarded as “truly hurting,” other patients’ distress could be disparaged or not even registered as being “real pain.” Such judgments had major effects on regimes of pain-alleviation. Indeed, it took until the late twentieth century for the routine underestimation of the sufferings of certain groups of people to be deemed scandalous. Often the categorizations were contradictory. For instance, the humble status of workers and immigrants meant that they were said to be insensitive to noxious stimuli; the profound inferiority of these same patients meant that they were especially likely to respond with “exaggerated” sensitivity. How did physicians hold such positions simultaneously? Pain-assignation claimed to be based on natural hierarchical schemas, but the great Chain of Feeling was more fluid than it seemed.


    Item Type: Article
    Keyword(s) / Subject(s): History of pain, Sensitivity, Anglo-American societies, Anaesthetics, Analgesics, Chain of feeling
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Historical Studies
    Research Centres and Institutes: Gender and Sexuality, Birkbeck (BiGS), Social Research, Birkbeck Institute for (BISR)
    Depositing User: Administrator
    Date Deposited: 07 Apr 2014 14:35
    Last Modified: 02 Aug 2023 17:10


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