A Thirtieth Anniversary Retrospective
10-11 December 2015
Keynote: Professor Elaine Scarry and Professor Joanna Bourke
The year 2015 marks the thirtieth anniversary of Elaine Scarry’s The Body in Pain. In this seminal text, Scarry offers a radical and original thesis on the relationship between embodiment, pain, wounding and imagining, arguing that pain is central to “the making and unmaking of the world”. Widely regarded as a classic, the text has influenced work on notions of the body, war, torture and pain in a variety of academic disciplines – from philosophy, to anthropology, to cultural geography, to political theory, to many others – as well as informing debates and discussions in medical science, NGOs, charities and other parts of society.
In the years since its publication the text has only become more relevant as a growing number of scholars have taken account of various violences, at both the local and the global level, through an understanding of embodiment. Phenomena such as suicide bombing, ‘shock and awe’ tactics, neo-colonial occupation, the financialisation of abjection, anti-austerity occupation, the figure of the wounded veteran, memorialisation, and many others, have all been read through an understanding of the body and its relationship to power, violence and subjectivity.
In this two-day conference we will engage Scarry’s text with recent theoretical accounts of the body, pain, violence and subjectivity, as well as with forms of violence that have emerged in the light of new modes of war-waging and resistance. In this way we hope to reinvigorate some of The Body in Pain’s most well known arguments while bringing parts of the text that have received comparatively less attention to the fore.