Birkbeck, University of London
Public Conference: 24 – 25 March 2017
Call for Papers – closed
In 2012, The Journal of Pain published a definitive study about the relationship between gender and pain, showing that for the vast majority of ailments, women reported significantly higher levels of pain (approximately twenty per cent higher) than men. In a variety of historical contexts, the female body has been associated with heightened sensitivity of various types. These images were borne out by cultural representations of female delicacy. However, female bodies have also been singled out for their ability to bear heightened pain, especially during childbirth. Representations of male stoicism (or perceived lack thereof) in the face of pain have also been a powerful image in many contexts. Women and men have long been thought to experience bodily sensations including discomfort and pain in a variety of culturally and historically specific ways: pain has routinely been gendered.
This two-day conference focuses on the historical relationship(s) between gender and pain between the early modern period and the present day. It aims to foster discussion among experts working on women’s history, the history of masculinity, and the history of gender; the history of science, health, and medicine; and the history of the body, with perspectives from a variety of national contexts and disciplinary backgrounds. Possible paper topics include, but are not limited to:
- Histories of female and/or male experiences of pain, including attention to uniquely female or male medical ailments or conditions
- Attention to historical representations of pain as they relate to femininity or masculinity
- Gendered experiences of emotional pain and trauma
- Attention to the role of other categories including race, ethnicity, age, and class or mode of living as they relate to gendered experiences of pain
- Intersections of pain and sexuality, including pain during intercourse, sadism and masochism
- Intersections of pain and reproduction – attention to the history of pain during pregnancy and childbirth, and perceptions of fetal pain including during abortion
- The effects of gender on engagement with medicine and medical practitioners
- The responses of various medical and cultural communities to pain in women and in men
- Pain, gender, and social relationships
- Representations of gender, sensitivity, and pain in art, literature, film, and drama
Confirmed speakers include Professor Keith Wailoo, Townsend Martin Professor of History and Public Affairs (Princeton University), Professor Wendy Kline, Dema G. Seelye Chair in the History of Medicine (Purdue University), and Dr Lisa Smith (University of Essex).
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This conference is organized by Dr Whitney Wood and Professor Joanna Bourke, in affiliation with the Birkbeck Trauma Project. This event is supported by the Birkbeck Wellcome Trust Institutional Strategic Support Fund in the Department of History, Classics and Archaeology.
The conference will be held at Birkbeck, University of London, located in Russell Square in central London. Following the conference, presenters will be invited to submit papers for a special journal issue or edited collection based on the conference themes.