This October 2015, Johns Hopkins University Press is slated to release Keith Wailoo’s Pain: A Political History. Wailoo’s book examines how the definition of chronic pain in the United States developed and changed alongside broader political and economic changes. The book begins with the culture of treatment following World War II, when public and political attitudes towards pain considered physical suffering real and potentially disabling. With decreasing support of disability programs throughout the 1980s, however, the validity and legitimacy of chronic pain came under question.
New conversations beginning in the 1990s about euthanasia reinvigorated the conversation surrounding pain, no doubt bolstered today by current discussions of medical marijuana laws and the burgeoning use of prescription painkillers for recreation purposes. This renewed interest in the nature and the extent of pain have enlivened the debate around who experiences pain, how we certify pain, and at what point pain requires medical intervention.
The book strives to illuminate the historical foundations of today’s contemporary pain medication and treatment market, particularly in terms of the liberal and conservative political trends between the 1950s and today. Wailoo’s account culminates with an exploration of the contemporary state of pain care: a severe imbalance between the overmedicated and the underserved who cannot access treatment for their chronic pain. Pain: A Political History will certainly prove insightful for historians of medicine as well as political-economic medical anthropologists, theorists of neoliberalism, and medical anthropologists carrying out research in the United States.
Wailoo is Professor of History and Public Affairs as well as the Vice Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.
This May 2015, Mara Buchbinder’s book All in Your Head: Making Sense of Pediatric Pain will be released by the University of California Press. The book grapples with the difficulty of expressing internal states to others via language, as these inner subjective experiences are often considered impossible to actualize in words. Buchbinder strives to honor this private experience of pain while studying how language surrounding pain and pain management is relational in nature. She explores how pain is described, managed, and treated in medical settings.
Image via UC Press
The text is a product of ethnographic research in numerous pediatric units in California hospitals. Buchbinder considers the social lives of physicians, caregivers, clinicians, parents, and children, all with a stake in alleviating pain and interpreting troubling or perplexing symptoms. Rather than allowing pain to be read solely as an isolating, private matter, the author argues that the treatment of pain is a complex social phenomenon. By focusing on narratives, conversations, and metaphors used by participants to illustrate the nature of pain, Buchbinder’s account underscores the power of language to generate shared meanings for human suffering.
All in Your Head will prove of interest to linguistic and medical anthropologists alike, as well as to scholars in the medical humanities with an interest in textual and communicative analysis in clinical settings. To learn more about this upcoming book, visit the publication page at the University of California Press here: http://www.ucpress.edu/book.php?isbn=9780520285224
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mara Buchbinder is Assistant Professor of Social Medicine at UNC-Chapel Hill, where she also teaches coursework in anthropology. She has previously coauthored the book Saving Babies? The Consequences of Newborn Genetic Screening.