copyright 2011

This work emerges from a previous investigation, which examined the experiences of a patient in a hospital, incorporating a theoretical narrative with accounts of a three-month hospitalization after a bicycle accident. A first-person narrative was interweaved with an exploration of Foucault’s works on power to look at the mechanisms under which human beings are turned into subjects. Pieces of my own medical reports referenced Foucault’s texts on medical discourse, allowing the reader to find new and unintended meanings. While this work helped me conceptualize power in clinical institutions and to situate the use of personal life within feminist epistemologies, it made me aware of some of the challenges I was encountering, such as the inability to speak of physical and bodily experiences, especially in relation to pain. I found it was much easier to speak about the body rationally than to speak about experiences from the body; or to remember pain in the body. In this work, it became evident that a social constructivist analysis alone was not capable of capturing embodied experiences and sensations, such as being in pain. This impasse has brought me to seek for theoretical tools that would allow me to pay closer attention to the body, and perhaps better articulate how physical pain feels like.

The body and memory looks at feminist neomaterialist theories of the body that reject the body-mind dualism, seeking for new approximations to bodily feelings and sensations. Contrasting purely physiological and interpretative understandings of pain, this work attempts to seek for explanations to the ungraspable nature of physical suffering, to why language is unable to capture pain as well as to remember painful experiences. There is no objective instrument to quantify the intensity of pain, and due to the interpretive-symbolic function of the brain, no language or system of representation will accurately be able to describe it. Because of its subjective nature, pain requires for an understanding of bodies as relational, fluid, and, therefore, unintelligible.

Relying on Karen Barad’s work, Posthumanist Performativity: Toward an Understanding of How Matter Comes to Matter, this paper seeks for an understanding of pain where the biological and the cultural are bound together. Here, there is no split between subject and object in knowledge production, allowing for a partial and embodied empiricism. Within this framework, the body is not static matter but “congealed agency,” actively participating of the world’s transformations.