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EPILOGUE Speaking of Pain On Stories, Cultural Recuperations, and Political Interventions In The Culture of Pain, David B. Morris shows that throughout human history, pain has been a mysterious experience that has taken on multiple meanings depending on the personal biographies and cultural contexts of the sufferers.1 In our day, however, those variegated interpretations have been stripped away by the dominant biomedical understanding of pain as a matter of nerves and neurotransmitters. The biomedicalization of pain has brought not only loss of cultural riches, but also human peril, for the paradigms of scientific medicine have all too often silenced the ill, diminished the person in the painful body, and even failed to ease the physical discomfort. What is the alternative to medicalization? In this book I have joined the growing chorus of voices contending that the alternative is to restore the meanings that have been lost by recovering the voices that have been silenced: the voices of the ill themselves. In this age of narrative florescence and political quiescence, it may be that individual and communal storytelling is one of the most viable routes to cultural and political change. The sociologist Arthur W.Frank, a venerable storyteller himself, has described the many ends that storytelling by the ill serves.2 In this brief epilogue I want to share some of Frank's thoughts and add a few of my own. Storytelling does important cultural work. For individuals, narrativizing their pain is a way to give meaning to suffering and, as Frank writes, to learn what one's own voice sounds like, perhaps for the very first time.3 On a communal level, when we tell stories we create communities , groups of people who are tied together by common accountings of human experience. Whether narrated orally, written down, or simply enacted in daily life, by telling our stories we also make resources available for others. Our stories empower listeners not only to spin their own yarns but also to learn from our "mistakes," enabling them to live their lives differently. I hope this book might have such an effect. In exposing so brutally the follies of S. and D., I hope I have convinced read323 324 / Narrating Illness, Politicizing Pain ers that there must never again be another patient like S.or another physician like Dr. D. More than simply understanding, I hope they will use this troubling tale as a springboard for creating new and better forms of patient and physician practice. Creating narratives is also a means to political awareness and political action. For individuals, storytelling is a way to resist the medical construction of one's identity, the transformation of the person one always thought one was into "patient with diagnosis." Crafting our personal narratives is a way to keep our lives our own, to protect all or part of our identities from threat or assault. Recounting our stories can also serve more overtly political ends when those tales directly challenge biomedical stories, take them apart, or document their damaging effects. Our illness stories can also serve to call a medical mistake an injustice; when they do, the stories serve as political interventions. As such stories pile up, one on top of the other, they work to create communities of potential political actors. Just as the civil rights and women's movements—to name just two—emerged from shared stories, illness communities are now forming to demand and to help devise better approaches to the care of illnesses such as AIDS and breast cancer. Perhaps publication of this book, coming on top of other stories of chronic pain, will incite more people to recount their pain-full histories, encourage them to join forces, and turn chronic pain into the next focus for organized political activity . If I have accomplished nothing else with this book, I hope I have persuaded readers that the care of chronic pain needs public attention and political reform. ...


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