Pained Bodies, Pained Worlds: A Feminist Phenomenological Investigation of 'Being-With' Chronic Pain in Live Art and Performance

Lead Research Organisation: University of East Anglia
Department Name: Literature, Drama and Creative Writing


This study will look at representations of chronic pain in live art and performance that, by engaging in a queer discourse on chronic pain as a non-normative experience, problematise the requirement for pained bodies to enact their pain in specific ways in order to access treatment and support. At a time where pain and pain-related diseases are the leading cause of global disability and disease (Vos et al. 2017), the project will move away from dominant narratives that present chronic pain as an individual problem. Drawing on feminist phenomenology of illness, it will develop the concept of 'being-with' to understand chronic pain from a relational perspective. This will serve to interrogate the relationships between pained bodies, non-pained bodies and the world, and how these inform live art practice. This framework will be applied to live art works on chronic pain that use sensory languages to 'make the invisible visible' and create encounters with chronic pain. The urgency of this work is suggested by the prevalence of chronic pain, including in connection with 'long COVID,' (Clauw et al. 2020) and my approach responds to the shift towards "embodied, performative, episodic and hybrid" forms of expression within the medical humanities' so-called 'second wave' (Bolaki 2019, 223).


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