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Do You Feel My Pain? Aesthetics of Suffering and Sociopolitical Circulations of Affect

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Organizer: Katryn Evinson

Co-Organizer: Ana Sanchez Acevedo

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As a bodily experience, pain is both corporeally situated and psychologically undeniable. While they may initially appear to be disconnected from pain, emotions such as anger, hate, or rage, often express and point to deep pain. Moreover, pain mobilizes and challenges the articulation of our sensations, our feelings, and our relation to others, whether it is our body or the other’s that is in pain. And yet, whatever the many philosophical and semiotic puzzles we come up with, pain and its recognition and management are evident and undeniable social realities. Rather than dismissing pain and associated “ugly feelings” such as rage, hatred, and indignation as immobilizing, dehumanizing, and politically ineffective, we are interested in the exploration of ambiguous and complex forms of aestheticizing them and articulating them as social practices. 
This panel seeks to explore the ways in which pain and its diverse and nuanced manifestations, despite their privative experience, are conducive to sociopolitical, aesthetic, and artistic formations that engage with a series of contested affects. How does suffering, resentment, hatred, arrive at the public realm? Which discursive and performative strategies does the re/presentation of pain use to take hold of its elusive object (and subjects)?  What are its consequences, desirable and undesirable, and what purposes does that distinction serve? What pleasures, if any, do we extract from bringing our pain, or the pain of others, to light? From furnishing it with our critical or spectatorial signature? Such questions involve the critical construction of an archive that mobilizes its own set of interrogations. “[O]ur slightly dusty archives of pain” (Foucault, History of Madness) may result from unlikely fevers, but also in “rage against the machine.” We would like to encourage reflection on the pragmatics of our focus on and registration of particular manifestations of pain.
We welcome paper proposals (150-250 words) on the following and all related themes by September 23rd: the re/presentations of pain in culture, literature, and the arts; the rhetoric, aesthetics, and politics of suffering, hatred, rage and other ugly feelings; pain in time and space; theatricalizations and spectacularizations of pain; performances of suffering; medicalized societies; pain archives and genres; phantom limb pains; schadenfreude; sadomasochism; self-inflicted pain. For any queries, please contact kw2750@columbia.edu and ana.sanchez.acevedo@gmail.com.

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