Notes from Prague: the conference ends

IMG_9145editToday was the last day of our conference, Making Sense of Pain. An interesting point was raised during these last few sessions, and one that I think is well worth repeating. We have not necessarily “made sense” of  pain, but we have shared in it, share in the stories of pain, the language of pain. While our individual experiences of pain my differ, we are united in those very differences, a unique “body” collectively exploring and expanding the definition of pain, embodiment, and identity.

May 11, 2013

We began the day with cognition, and found once again that the papers built upon the previous days’ exchanges. Particularly, we were able to draw connections between cognition, metaphor and a new framework of experience for “moving through” pain.

Session 7: Painful Realities: Psychology, Cognition, and Suffering

Psychological Pain: Metaphor or Reality
David Biro
SUNY Health Science Center, Brooklyn, USA

“It’s not what happens to you, but how you think about it”: Exploring the Cognitive Processes Underlying Resilience Following Adversity
Karisha George
University of York, United Kingdom

Although Unseen, Chronic Pain is Real—A Phenomenological Study
Tapio Ojala
Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences, University of Jyväskylä, Finland

Session 8 also helped us to re-define pain, first in terms of its potentially positive political statement and second in terms of non-western ideas of pain. From these, we were reminded that experiencing pain and speaking about it can be varied within a single culture and context.

Session 8: Voices: Managing, Coping with, and “Celebrating”Pain

Celebrating the Pain – Female Singer-Songwriters and the Beauty of Gloomy Images
Daniela Chana
Independent Researcher, Vienna, Austria

Perspectives on Coping with Acute and Chronic Pain in Botswana: Patients Voices
Nicole Monteiro and Kagiso Thlabano
University of Botswana, Botswana

The diversity of “voices” continued with our last session and with our open business meeting, which was, in fact, a wrap-up discussion in which ideas for next year’s conference were promoted.

Session 9: Palliative and Pain: Disease, Diagnosis and Treatment

Managing Babies Pain: An Ethnography of Daily Care Practices inside a Neonatology Intensive Care Unit in Switzerland
Line Rochat Noël
University of Lausanne, Switzerland

Pain as a New Social Determinant of Health
Maria Stella Guadagnoli-Closs
Faculty of Health, York University, Canada

The Normal You: Tales of Malformations and Habilitations
Davide Ticchi
Tallinn University, Estonia (David is to be thanked for his flexibility in moving up to Session 9–his abstract may be found here).

I hope you will look for more of the fascinating work being done at IDnet–and please do stay tuned for the next Probing the Boundaries conference (starting tomorrow): Probing the Boundaries of Reproduction!


Notes from Prague: the conference continues

rainRain fell on Prague today–a lot. But at the palace, the international ID.Net ( conference continues. Today was another fascinating group of papers (four panels in all), each providing further explorations of our shares experiences of pain. We began the day with an eye-opening look at love and danger:

May 10, 2013

Session 3: Love and Pain: Erotics, Desire, and Damage

Absent Pain: Exploring the Nexus of Pain, Pleasure and Representation in Sadomasochistic Fiction
Amalia Ziv
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel

BDSM: Ars Erotica Between Pain and Pleasure
Nicoletta Landi
University of Bologna, Italy

A Book of Love and Pain: The Monster’s Desire for Human Relations in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
Shun-liang Chao
National Chengchi University, Taiwan

Our fourth session took a look at sexual politics and sexual pain–as well as 19th century conceptions of race and distortions of the torture debate.

Session 4: Sexual Politics, Sexual Pain

Savage and Civilized Pains: Race, Class, and the Pain of Childbirth in Nineteenth-Century Medical Literature
Miriam Shoshanna Rich
Department of the History of Science, Harvard University, USA

Making Sense of the Pain of Sexual Intercourse: Personal Accounts of Hong Kong Chinese Married Women Who have Experienced Difficulty in Vaginal Penetrative Sex
Anna Ng Hoi Nga
Caritas Institute of Higher Education, Hong Kong

Distortions of the Torture Debate: Pain and Suffering
Thomas W. Simon
Johns Hopkins University, USA

You will notice, I think, that our group is highly diverse; these presenters come from many disciplines, many countries, and many cultures. By sharing the perspectives of law, literature, medicine, social work, performance, and more, we have been able to make fascinating connections between materials. (And, of course, the space between is something many of us focus on as inter-disciplinary scholars.) Our fifth session dealt even more specifically with the way we communicate pain:

Session 5: Reading, Writing, and Speaking Pain

The Effects of Pain on Communication
Didem Ozsenler
Faculty of Communication, Ege University, Turkey

Case Studies in Therapeutic Writing
Roy Fox
University of Missouri, USA

Talking about Pain: Occurrences, Abstractions, and Frustrations
James Moir
University of Abertay Dundee, Scotland

Finally, session six for today dealt with performance and pain, but also with the ritual aspects of grieving (and even of rage).

Session 6: Visible Suffering: Performance and Pain

Extremely Up-in-the-Air: Flesh Hook Suspension and Performance
Julie Rada
School of Theatre and Film at Arizona State University, USA

Funeral Rites in the 21st Century Dress in England: Pain in Bereavement
Jules Findley
Royal College of Art, United Kingdom

The ‘Presence’ of Suffering within the Photographic Representation of both Victim and Soldier
Paul Tebbs
University of Arts, London, United Kingdom

I hope you will tune in for more of the fascinating work being done here–and please do follow the hashtag on Twitter! #IDnetP

Notes from Prague: Inter-disciplinary Conferences in an International City

IMG_9119The sun sets over the Vltava River, illuminating the tops of trees still wet from spring showers. The day has been very warm, and the scent of blooming flowers at Kinskeho Zahrada Gardens wafts through the window of my hotel room. I am in Prague, one of Europe’s most beautiful international cities, where in a twenty-minute lunch you might chance to hear seven languages, and see as many and more examples of multiculturalism from your erstwhile perch at a local cafe. I can think of few better places to host an inter-disciplinary, international conference than this–and so, for the next few days I will be posting Notes from Prague on two “Probing the Boundaries” conferences for

Dr. Rob Fisher started ID.Net ( fourteen or so years ago. At that IMG_9133time he was teaching philosophy and theology at Westminster College in Oxford, and he found that two disturbing trends were beginning to creep in. Disenchanted with a lack of collegiality, Rob thought there had to be a way to return to academic dialogue. He decided to run a conference along rather different lines, with the idea of opening meaningful interdisciplinary dialogue. Now, with nearly forty conferences each year on a very wide variety of topics, (and Rob) are excellent examples and role models for those who wish to foster connections rather than niches in scholarship. They are one of the inspirations for Rogue Scholar Salon–and I hope to host more of the organizers here, soon.

The ethos of ID.Net  is to foster international and interdisciplinary dialogue. Our gatherings are intentionally small, so that people really speak to each other and to each other’s ideas. I am the project leader for two here in Prague, both in the nexus of “Probing the Boundaries.” The first is “Making Sense of Pain.” Pain (multiply defined) sits as a nexus at the centre of innumerable intersecting relationships. In cultures for whom self-inflicted pain is a means of experiencing vitality, pain, body and self are critically linked. This principle recognizably appears in aspects of ritual, of consumption, of sexuality, of psychological pain, of dissociation and body dismorphia. In so many ways, in sickness and in health, pain is the means by which we navigate the vulnerable, permeable boundary between ourselves and others—the inside and outside of our bodies and minds.

I hope you will follow the conversation; we should be tweeting to #IDnetP for the duration of this meeting.

Thursday, May 9th

Session 1: The Inter-subjectivity of Pain

Autism and Suffering
Nize Maria Campos Pellanda
Universidade de Santa Cruz do Sul, Brazil

The Language of Pain
David Biro
SUNY Health Science Center, Brooklyn, USA

Feeling-with the Pain of Another: Intercorporeality, Body Schemata and Boundaries between Bodies
Lisa Folkmarson Käll
Center for Dementia Research, Linköping University, Sweden

Session 2: Suffering Self: Identity and Embodiments of Pain

Engaging with Pain, accessing the Embodied Self: The Role of Pain in the Experience of Iyengar Yoga Practice
Bárbara Ayala
Faculty of Social Sciences, Universidad de Chile, Chile

Can Pain Be a Number?
Ian Grant
North Geelong, Victoria, Australia

Blind Musicians in the 20th Century: A Tragedy of Urge for Artistic Motivation
Ozan Eren
Middle East Technical University, Turkey