The Logic of Accounting: Pain, Promises, Prescriptions

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posted on 01.11.2017, 00:00 by Alyson Patsavas
Discourses of pain are marked by contradiction, depicting pain as simultaneously a universal human experience and, at the same time, a deeply personal and subjective phenomenon. Similarly, narratives of pain vacillate, often within a single account, between depicting pain as totalizing in its destruction and as something that one can overcome through a positive attitude and/or strict adherence to medical regimes. My dissertation asks, simply: what makes these seemingly incommensurate yet simultaneous framings possible? In answering this question, I forward an understanding of what I call the logic of accounting for pain to outline the logic that structures discursive framings of pain as simultaneously an individual tragedy, a national problem, and a matter of personal responsibility. I argue that cost/benefit analyses frame, shape, and connect these seemingly divergent discourses of pain. I map out how this logic shapes discourses across various cultural locations (from first-person memoirs to popular press articles to professional literature) and intersects with discourses of disability, race, class, gender, and sexuality to register the cost of pain. I discuss alternative representational strategies that interrupt, crip and queer such logics to craft new ways of knowing, feeling, and being with/in pain.



Sandahl, Carrie


Disability and Human Development

Degree Grantor

University of Illinois at Chicago

Degree Level


Committee Member

Sufian, Sandra Davis, Lennard Brier, Jennifer McRuer, Robert

Submitted date

August 2017

Issue date