All in Your Head (Paperback)

Making Sense of Pediatric Pain

By Mara Buchbinder

University of California Press, 9780520285224, 256pp.

Publication Date: June 5, 2015

Other Editions of This Title:
Hardcover (6/5/2015)

List Price: 34.95*
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Although pain is a universal human experience, many view the pain of others as private, resistant to language, and, therefore, essentially unknowable. And, yet, despite the obvious limits to comprehending another’s internal state, language is all that we have to translate pain from the solitary and unknowable to a phenomenon richly described in literature, medicine, and everyday life. Without denying the private dimensions of pain, All in Your Head offers an entirely fresh perspective that considers how pain may be configured, managed, explained, and even experienced in deeply relational ways.

Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in a pediatric pain clinic in California, Mara Buchbinder explores how clinicians, adolescent patients, and their families make sense of puzzling symptoms and work to alleviate pain. Through careful attention to the language of pain—including narratives, conversations, models, and metaphors—and detailed analysis of how young pain sufferers make meaning through interactions with others, her book reveals that however private pain may be, making sense of it is profoundly social.

About the Author

Mara Buchbinder is Associate Professor of Social Medicine and Adjunct Associate Professor of Anthropology at UNC – Chapel Hill, as well as core faculty in the UNC Center for Bioethics. She is coauthor of Saving Babies? The Consequences of Newborn Genetic Screening.

Praise For All in Your Head: Making Sense of Pediatric Pain

"Buchbinder’s ethnography not only contributes substantially to our understanding of the social uses of explanations, it also exposes how the cultural meaning of these explanations depends on the language that is used and the social and cultural context in which it is delivered."

— Somatosphere

"All in Your Head comes in the wake of an incredible amount of recent scholarly attention to the topic of pain, yet Mara Buchbinder finds a unique anthropological voice that is subtle and distinctive in her exploration of the treatment of pediatric pain."

— Medical Anthropology Quarterly

"...a thoughtful ethnography on pediatric pain management in the United States."

— Anthropological Quarterly