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The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World
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The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  1,019 Ratings  ·  75 Reviews
Part philosophical meditation, part cultural critique, The Body in Pain is a profoundly original study that has already stirred excitement in a wide range of intellectual circles. The book is an analysis of physical suffering and its relation to the numerous vocabularies and cultural forces--literary, political, philosophical, medical, religious--that confront it. Elaine S ...more
Paperback, 385 pages
Published April 23rd 1987 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published September 26th 1985)
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Mar 22, 2010 rated it really liked it
I'm giving this 4 stars, but that's purely on the strength of the first section of the book. I'll get my key complaint out of the way here--- the final section seems largely an afterthought, and could be a separate book. The middle section--- on warfare ---isn't as tightly reasoned as the first, key section on torture. But that section taken alone is powerful and cogent and a key text for understanding what torture does.

So much of the debate over "enhanced interrogation" in the last nine years h
Oct 22, 2014 added it
Shelves: theeeeeeory
Let's start with that first section, the one about torture. Essential reading, absolutely essential, thought-provoking reading, and a piece of critical theory in its best, most provocative, and most lucid tradition, that of Foucault, Adorno, and Barthes.

Then we get into the section on war. Not as interesting, but still serviceable.

Then there's some biblical stuff. Same.

Then there's a truly appalling discourse on Marx, which is the worst sort of Marxist writing, in that it completely abandons Mar
Jul 18, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: critical readers, pain survivors
My main observation when reading this book was the self-awareness of the prose. Even the length and construction of the sentences is self-conscience, full of explainitory clauses and careful definitions of things that do not need to be defined. The style befits the subject matter, of course, but detracts from "The Body in Pain" as a critical synthesis. Instead, it becomes a "surviviour's text". Further, for a book that is explicitly about the body, descriptions bodily experiences are very thin. ...more
May 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I am only a few chapters in and I already find this book utterly revelatory. The chapters on the medical, legal and political discourse on pain in re: torture feel far more contemporary than when the book was written, in 1985. I feel this is a necessary book, for me as a pain sufferer, and for understanding, for lack of better term, the human condition.
Nov 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Reading this in the dark as Saturn returns, I can’t give it the time, although every sentence deserves it.

‘....many people’s experience of the medical community would bear out... the conclusion that physicians do not trust (hence, hear) the human voice, that they in effect perceive the voice of the patient as an “unreliable narrator” of bodily events, a voice which must be bypassed as quickly as possible so that they can get around and behind it to the physical events themselves.’
Jan 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: scholarly
I thought I would never finish this book. Instead, it took me 20 years. I bought it and first tried to read it in the 1990s--I made it through the first section about torture but it was so taxing and distressing that I needed to take a break before reading any more, so I set it aside and didn't pick it up back.

The same thing happened in the 2000s. But then someone told me that the first section is the hardest section in terms of arousing distress at the plight of others, that the other sections
Ralowe Ampu
Oct 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
i'm intimidated for some reason about writing a review because i think this is one of the most beautiful books i've read in some time. it is about the shared reality and the boundary that is the sentient matter of one's own body. the complicity that allows pain to be a prerequisite of meaning. the book is split into in depth discussions of torture and war, the bible and marx. it is interesting to me because of my obsession with nonrepresentation that its a category shared with pain and the judeo ...more
Jan 03, 2017 added it
Shelves: read_chunks_of
An academic and not workbooky look at pain. As my pain returns after some healing from the surgery, I am discouraged and need some framework for pain that is not just a series of to do lists for self improvement.

This will live in bathroom, where I sit and steam to distract myself. It starts with torture... not exactly the usual bathroom book. It's no Calvin & Hobbes!
Louis Marvin
Oct 03, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people interested in post-structuralist theory and a full explanation of torture techniques
Shelves: lightreads
This book provides a thorough critique of the mind/body split that dominates modernist thought. Besides being a pre-eminent scholar, Elaine Scarry is also somewhat of a renaissance woman, having at somepoint or another turning herself into a leading expert on rocket trajectory or, in this case, torture techniques. This makes this read both fascinating and somewhat stomach-turning. Enjoy!
Nov 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: best
six stars, ten stars
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comment 3 26 Oct 14, 2017 07:58AM 1 2 Feb 01, 2017 10:07PM  
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“to have great pain is to have certainty; to hear that another person has pain is to have doubt.” 3 likes
“What is striking about such unmediated juxtapositions, and relevant to the way in which at the end of war opened bodies and verbal issues are placed side by side, is that in most instances the verbal assertion has no source of substantiation other than the body.” 0 likes
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