An Institute of Pain
Dec 1, 2023 — 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
An event organized by the Research Centre on the Future of Cities and the Laboratory for Engaged Research.
Based on fifteen months of ethnographic fieldwork in Kolkata, India in 2015-2016, this paper describes lives of industrial labour force workers and their struggles with chronic pains. It records the emergence of India’s first institute of pain management in the public health network which most of these labourers frequent in the hope of receiving pain relief. In sharing the story of the Institute's emergence, the paper describes three discursive densities which mediate everyday interactions between medical practitioners and chronic pain sufferers in this pain centre. These include first, an economic milieu of labour, jute mills and state-supported healthcare marked by precarity; second, medical therapeutics and bureaucratic apparatus oriented to forms of ‘management’ rather than care or cure; and third, epistemological practices instituting collectivities of pain (as pain populations and pain diseases) revealing the Institute’s role in local and national imaginaries of pain.