A Subaltern Pain: The Problem of Violence in Philosophy’s Pain Discourse


The scientific and philosophical approach to pain must be supplemented by a hermeneutics studying how racism has complicated the communication of pain. Such an investigation reveals that not only are non-white people seen as credibly speaking their pain, but also pain “science” is one of the ways races have historically been constructed. I illustrate this through a study of Frantz Fanon’s clinical writings, along with eighteenth- and nineteenth-century slave-owners’ medical manuals and related documents. I suggest that, with this history, what philosophers understand as the problem of pain is best framed as the problem of colonial violence.


IASP definition of pain, Frantz Fanon, subaltern, philosophy of mind, racism

How to cite:

Harfouch, John. “A Subaltern Pain: The Problem of Violence in Philosophy’s Pain Discourse.” Eidos. A Journal for Philosophy of Culture 3, no. 3(9) (2019): 127-144. https://doi.org/10.14394/eidos.jpc.2019.0034.


John Harfouch
Department of Philosophy, University of Alabama-Huntsville
301 Sparkman Drive, Huntsville, AL 35899, USA


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