Re-engaging Elaine Scarry’s The Body in Pain – 30th Anniversary

Re-engaging Elaine Scarry’s The Body in Pain
A Thirtieth Anniversary Retrospective

10th-11th December 2015
Grand Parade
University of Brighton, UK

Understanding Conflict Research Cluster
Critical Studies Research Group


Prof Elaine Scarry
Prof Joanna Bourke

The year 2015 marks the thirtieth anniversary of Elaine Scarry’s The Body in Pain. In this seminal text, Scarry offers a radical and original thesis on the relationship between embodiment, pain, wounding and imagining, arguing that pain is central to “the making and unmaking of the world”. Widely regarded as a classic, the text has influenced work on notions of the body, war, torture and pain in a variety of academic disciplines – from philosophy, to anthropology, to cultural geography, to political theory, to many others – as well as informing debates and discussions in medical science, NGOs, charities and other parts of society.

In the years since its publication the text has only become more relevant as a growing number of scholars have taken account of various violences, at both the local and the global level, through an understanding of embodiment. Phenomena such as suicide bombing, ‘shock and awe’ tactics, neo-colonial occupation, the financialisation of abjection, anti-austerity occupation, the figure of the wounded veteran, memorialisation, and many others, have all been read through an understanding of the body and its relationship to power, violence and subjectivity.

In this two-day conference we will engage Scarry’s text with recent theoretical accounts of the body, pain, violence and subjectivity, as well as with forms of violence that have emerged in the light of new modes of war-waging and resistance. In this way we hope to reinvigorate some of The Body in Pain’s most well known arguments while bringing parts of the text that have received comparatively less attention to the fore.

We invite participants from the arts, humanities, social sciences or medical sciences to contribute to these discussions, along with those who have a personal, artistic or professional interest in the issues raised by The Body in Pain. Proposals for traditional academic papers, as well as alternative presentation formats such as artworks, performances, films and sound are welcome. Abstracts and inquiries should be sent to Tim Huzar ( or Leila Dawney ( Abstracts should be no more than three-hundred words, should be in .doc or .odt file format, and should include a title and a biography of the speaker. The deadline for abstract submissions is Friday 29th May 2015.

Authors should indicate if they wish to present a twenty minute paper, or a shorter (maximum ten minutes) working paper. Postgraduate students are especially encouraged to submit working papers, although would be welcome to submit in either category. There will be a limited number of travel bursaries for postgraduates; please indicate in your abstract submission if you would like to be considered for one of these.

The conference fee will be £100 for waged attendees and £25 for student / unwaged attendees.

The Understanding Conflict Research Cluster seeks to build a usable understanding of violent conflict and its human legacies by developing two areas of interdisciplinary investigation: ethical and political justifications of violence; and cultural and historical constructions of past, present and future. For more information please visit

The Critical Studies Research Group was founded in 2011 by postgraduate students, with the aim of providing an interdisciplinary forum for the discussion of critical ideas and practices in light of the socio-political struggles we face today. For more information please visit


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