“How Does It Feel to be a Problem?”: Social Harm, Algorithms of Pain, and the Potential for Social Change

Monday, 11 July 2016: 16:10
Location: Hörsaal 4C KS (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
David GLISCH-SANCHEZ, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA
In this paper, I argue for the critical need to understand the experience of pain in relation to racism, patriarchy, heterosexism and other systems of oppression and the counter-intuitive role it plays in catalyzing social change.  Pain is very rarely studied in the sociology of emotions; the one major exception is the experience of pain as it relates to health. As a result, Bendelow and Williams (1995, 1998) note that definitions of pain must necessarily broaden from current Cartesian premises that root pain primarily as a physical sensation resulting from some form of neurophysiologic pathology. Relatedly, Kiran Mirchandani (2003) has argued for the need to incorporate race and racism as an analytical lens to understand emotional labor. Unfortunately, within the sociology of emotion not many have followed in her footsteps (Wilkins & Pace 2014), even when emotions remain an implicit element, if not an invisible force, within many studies of race and racism. I utilize, algorithms of pain, a concept from my own work on queer Latina/o experiences of social harm, to understand the sociological work being done by the contemporary rhetoric and protest actions of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. I contend that #BlackLivesMatter seeks a fundamental and permanent shift in white algorithms of pain that results in the elimination of the white practice of “emotional segregation” (Beeman 2007); a paradigm shift that would lead to white algorithms of pain that recognize and care about black suffering and death.