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Pain and Its Transformations: The Interface of Biology and Culture

Pain and Its Transformations: The Interface of Biology and Culture


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Pain is immediate and searing but remains a deep mystery for sufferers, their physicians, and researchers. As neuroscientific research shows, even the immediate sensation of pain is shaped by psychological state and interpretation. At the same time, many individuals and cultures find meaning, particularly religious meaning, even in chronic and inexplicable pain.

This ambitious interdisciplinary book includes not only essays but also discussions among a wide range of specialists. Neuroscientists, psychiatrists, anthropologists, musicologists, and scholars of religion examine the ways that meditation, music, prayer, and ritual can mediate pain, offer a narrative that transcends the sufferer, and give public dignity to private agony. They discuss topics as disparate as the molecular basis of pain, the controversial status of gate control theory, the possible links between the relaxation response and meditative practices in Christianity and Buddhism, and the mediation of pain and intense emotion in music, dance, and ritual. The authors conclude by pondering the place of pain in understanding--or the human failure to understand--good and evil in history.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674024564
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 01/31/2008
Series: Mind/Brain/Behavior Initiative , #4
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 456
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x (d)

About the Author

Sarah Coakley is Norris-Hulse Professor of Divinity and Deputy Chair of Arts and Humanities at the University of Cambridge.

Kay Kaufman Shelemay is G. Gordon Watts Professor of Music and Professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard University.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction
Sarah Coakley

2. Opening Remarks
Arthur Kleinman

Response from Anne Harrington

Part I: Pain at the Interface of Biology and Culture

3. Deconstructing Pain—A Deterministic Dissection of the Molecular Basis of Pain
Clifford Woolf

4. Setting The Stage For Pain: Allegorical Tales From Neuroscience
Howard Fields

Response from Anne Harrington: Is Pain Differentially Embodied?

Response from Elaine Scarry: Pain and the Embodiment of Culture

Discussion: Is There Life Left in the Gate Control Theory?

Discussion: The Success of Reductionism in Pain Treatment

Part II: Beyond "Coping": Religious Practices of Transformation

5. Palliative or Intensification? Pain and Christian Contemplation in the Spirituality of the 16th-Century Carmelites
Sarah Coakley

6. Pain and the Suffering Consciousness: The Alleviation of Suffering in Buddhist Discourse
Luis Gómez

Response from Arthur Kleinman: The Incommensurable Richness of "Experience"

Response from Jon Levenson: The Theology of Pain and Suffering in the Jewish Tradition

Discussion: The "Relaxation Response": Can it Explain Religious Transformation?

Discussion: Reductionism and the Separation of Suffering and Pain

Discussion: The Instrumentality of Pain in Christianity and Buddhism

Part III: Grief and Pain: The Mediation of Pain in Music

7. Voice, Metaphysics, and Community: Pain and Transformation in the Finnish Karelian Ritual Lament
Elizabeth Tolbert

8. Music, Trancing and the Absence of Pain
Judith Becker

Response from John Brust: Music as Ecstasy and Music as Trance

Response from Kay Shelemay: Thinking About Music and Pain

Discussion: The Presentation and Representation of Emotion in Music

Discussion: Neurobiological Views of Music, Emotion, and the Body

Discussion: Ritual and Expectation

Part IV: Pain, Ritual and the Somatomoral: Beyond the Individual

9. Pain and Humanity in the Confucian Learning of the Heart-and-Mind
Tu Weiming

Response from Laurence Kirmayer: Reflections from Psychiatry on Emergent Mind and Empathy

10. Painful Memories: Ritual and the Transformation of Community Trauma
Jennifer Cole

Response from Stanley Tambiah: Collective Memory as a Witness to Collective Pain Discussion: Pain, Healing, and Memory

Part V: Pain as Isolation or Community? Literary and Aesthetic Representations

11. Physical Pain and the Ground of Creating
Elaine Scarry

12. The Poetics of Anaesthesia: Representations of Pain in the Literatures of Classical India
Martha Ann Selby

Response from Richard Wolf: Doubleness, matam, and Muharram Drumming in South Asia

Discussion: The Dislocation, Representation, and Communication of Pain

Part VI: When Is Pain Not Suffering and Suffering Not Pain?: Self, Ethics and Transcendence

13. On the Cultural Mediation of Pain
Laurence Kirmayer

Discussion: The Notion of Face

14. The Place of Pain in the Space of Good and Evil
Nicholas Wolterstorff

Response from Charles Hallisey: The Problem of Action

15. Afterword
Sarah Coakley

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