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The Politics of Pain Medicine

A Rhetorical-Ontological Inquiry

Chronic pain is a medical mystery, debilitating to patients and a source of frustration for practitioners. It often eludes both cause and cure and serves as a reminder of how much further we have to go in unlocking the secrets of the body. A new field of pain medicine has evolved from this landscape, one that intersects with dozens of disciplines and subspecialties ranging from psychology and physiology to anesthesia and chiropractic medicine. Over the past three decades, researchers, policy makers, and practitioners have struggled to define this complex and often contentious field as they work to establish standards while navigating some of the most challenging philosophical issues of Western science.

In The Politics of Pain Medicine: A Rhetorical-Ontological Inquiry, S. Scott Graham offers a rich and detailed exploration of the medical rhetoric surrounding pain medicine. Graham chronicles the work of interdisciplinary pain management specialists to found a new science of pain and a new approach to pain medicine grounded in a more comprehensive biospychosocial model. His insightful analysis demonstrates how these materials ultimately shape the healthcare community’s understanding of what pain medicine is, how the medicine should be practiced and regulated, and how practitioner-patient relationships are best managed. It is a fascinating, novel examination of one of the most vexing issues in contemporary medicine.

256 pages | 1 halftone, 15 line drawings, 2 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2015

Disability Studies


Rhetoric and Communication


"The ancient rhetorical term kairos denotes the moment of opportunity for a particular sort of discursive intervention. Graham unfolds the 'synergy' between a contemporary biopsychosocial model in pain science and the turn in critical theory to new materialism and ontology, exposing both modernist and postmodernist explanatory fallacies. With remarkable theoretical agility, he gives us a thoroughly kairotic, pleasingly generative, and importantly interdisciplinary, approach to a wicked problem human beings have been contending with forever."

Judy Z. Segal, University of British Columbia

"Graham’s The Politics of Pain Medicine is an exemplary integration of rhetorical studies, science and technology studies, and material ontologies of human being.  With careful and textured analyses of research and medical efforts aimed at remediating the ineluctably interconnected biological, psychological, and social dimensions of pain, Graham both articulates and effects an ontological reorientation that has the potential to transform how theorists and practitioners think about pain, talk about pain, and respond to pain in others."

Samantha Frost, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

"The Politics of Pain Medicine, as a title, understates the comprehensive coverage of the complex topic of pain that can be found in this book's pages. Especially striking is Graham's deconstruction of the history of pain research into a variety of strands, each of which corresponds to a distinct mode of relating to the phenomena of pain. Even scholars who do not share Graham’s preoccupation with the role of rhetoric in the study of science and technology will come away with a more sophisticated understanding of why pain has been such a controversial and revealing site in the politics of medical practice. Moreover, fully aware of the closeness of pain to our sense of human dignity, Graham concludes the book with a sober reflection on what difference he thinks his inquiry can make to the future of pain as both an object of research and a personal experience."

Steve Fuller, University of Warwick

Table of Contents




Chapter 1. An Ontological History of Pain

Chapter 2. Praxiography of Representation

Chapter 3. Ontological Calibration and Functional Stases in the MPG

Chapter 4. Neuroimaging Detours

Chapter 5. Rarefactive and Constitutive Calibration

Chapter 6. Networks of Calibration

Conclusion: Finding the Groove


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