Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies

Chronic Pain as Emotion

Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies (2020), 14, (1), 5–20.


The article explores chronic pain from a critical crip standpoint. It sets out why pain can be considered an emotion and presents a short crip reading of normative understanding, particularly how chronic pain is both abnormal and an ontological impossibility for the un-pained person. Chronic pain is characterized as “reliably unreliable” and contrasted with the reliable pain of BDSM and normative understandings of health and self-management. The article presents findings from a research project about how people living with chronic pain experienced pain and engaged with BDSM practices. The findings explore how ableist norms structure how we view chronic pain, and the demand for management of pain—particularly for the un-pained other. Also highlighted is a tension between the use of pacing as self-management and self-abjection, and the emotions to which this leads.

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Author details

Sheppard, Emma