Title 2:

[Cover photograph: Luke King / Cover image: fern sculpture by Virginia King]

Pain and the Body Politic

by Grant Duncan
with a discussion by Victoria Grace

Introduction by Eleanor Rimoldi & Jennifer Lawn

Social and Cultural Studies 2
(June 2002)
ISSN: 1175-7132

from the Introduction:

The therapeutic process does not begin and end with the discrete therapeutic event, and to study it in that way diminishes its character and significance as a social process. This is true first in the sense that the goals of a therapeutic system exist within a histori­cal and social context of values and necessarily have an orientation to that context. The culturally presupposed goal of therapy may be to facilitate a person's adaptation to society or, on the other hand, to criticize societal demands and motivate the person toward crea­tive personal change and social reform. In a second sense, the therapeutic process cannot be understood as bounded by the thera­peutic event precisely because it is directed at life beyond the event. If therapeutic transformation is to occur, it must occur not only in the event but in a person's life between events, as a social and experiential process. (Csordas & Kleinman, 1990, p. 25)

This second discussion paper in our Social and Cultural Studies series is a wide-ranging exploration of the nature of pain. That Grant Duncan should from the very start associate personal pain with the "body politic" is particularly relevant for New Zealand Maori: ill-health, both physical and mental, has been associated with the history of colonisation and con­tinued disadvantage in this country. That "pain" can be both socially experienced and socially "caused" is not a new concept for an anthropologist. As the above quotation from Csordas and Kleinman suggests, the "therapeutic event" - a client's consultation with a health pro­fessional, for example - ought not be analysed in isolation from the "historical and social context of values" within which pain is experienced. ...

- Eleanor Rimoldi & Jennifer Lawn

Notes on Contributors:

Dr Grant Duncan is a senior lecturer in the Social and Public Policy programmes, School of Social and Cultural Studies, Massey University (Auckland campus). His research has covered the relationship between policy institutions and the well-being of people, particularly concerning chronic pain and injury-compensation systems.

Prof Victoria Grace is a Professor of Sociology at the University of Canterbury. She has published widely on sociocultural understandings of chronic pain, particularly chronic pelvic pain in women. Her work in this field extends from empirical research on use of the health services and prevalence of chronic pelvic pain in New Zealand, to theoretical cri­tiques of problems generated by the onto-epistemological assumptions of the biomedical model and its more recent appropriation of the biopsycho­social model. Current research includes investigating "meanings" of chronic pain and associated methodological questions related to language and embodiment.

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