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Pain and Its Transformations

Pain and Its Transformations

The Interface of Biology and Culture

Edited by Sarah Coakley and Kay Kaufman Shelemay

ISBN 9780674024564

Publication date: 01/31/2008

Pain is immediate and searing but remains a deep mystery for sufferers, their physicians, and researchers. As neuroscientific research shows, even the immediate sensation of pain is shaped by psychological state and interpretation. At the same time, many individuals and cultures find meaning, particularly religious meaning, even in chronic and inexplicable pain.

This ambitious interdisciplinary book includes not only essays but also discussions among a wide range of specialists. Neuroscientists, psychiatrists, anthropologists, musicologists, and scholars of religion examine the ways that meditation, music, prayer, and ritual can mediate pain, offer a narrative that transcends the sufferer, and give public dignity to private agony. They discuss topics as disparate as the molecular basis of pain, the controversial status of gate control theory, the possible links between the relaxation response and meditative practices in Christianity and Buddhism, and the mediation of pain and intense emotion in music, dance, and ritual. The authors conclude by pondering the place of pain in understanding--or the human failure to understand--good and evil in history.

Praise

  • The sixth and last of the Harvard Mind/Brain/Behavior interdisciplinary books, the most ambitious, and the most truly interdisciplinary of all. This book covers the waterfront in current pain research, from what we know about the biological concepts of pain in literature, the effects of music on pain, and even the moral worth of pain.

    —John Dowling

Authors

  • Sarah Coakley is Norris-Hulse Professor of Divinity and Deputy Chair of Arts and Humanities at the University of Cambridge.
  • Kay Kaufman Shelemay is G. Gordon Watts Professor of Music and Professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard University.

Book Details

  • 456 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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