“Today is a Four”: How Students Talk About their Chronic Pain

Kate Pashby


According to critical embodiment theory, people notice the acts and functions of their bodies only when their bodies are not normalized, which causes them to perceive a difference between normalized bodies and their own. People with chronic pain likewise perceive a disconnect between themselves and people without chronic pain. This study examines, through semi-structured interviews with university students who have chronic pain, how participants conceive of their pain in different ways. This study confirms that participants considered themselves different from those without chronic pain, although nearly all participants identified one or more individual out-group “allies.” Further, participants conceived of their pain differently, as evidenced by the various established and unestablished frameworks they used to communicate their pain. Because these concepts of pain are grounded in bodily experiences, it is impossible to fully “translate” pain to others.


disability studies; chronic pain; community; communication

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.15273/jue.v8i1.8621


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The JUE is a peer-reviewed online journal that publishes original ethnographic research by undergraduates working in a variety of disciplines. Submissions are welcomed. Contact the Editor, Karen McGarry.

ISSN 2369-8721