8 June 2011 from 16:15 to 17:30


Inaugural lecture Joanna Bourke: ‘Pain, Suffering and the Politics of empathy’

In Spring 2011 historian Professor Joanna Bourke (Birkbeck College, University of London) is the fourth Visiting Professor on the Treaty of Utrecht Chair, hosted by the Centre for the Humanities at Utrecht University. On 8 June she will be giving her inaugural lecture, titled ‘Pain, Suffering and the Politics of empathy’.


In her inaugural lecture, Prof. Bourke will explore the language of pain in Anglo-American societies from the 1760s. Although the communication of pain presents difficulties, she will be arguing that painful worlds are expressed through a rich language of metaphor, simile, metonym, and analogy. Furthermore, these metaphors are based on embodied experiences, dissolving any body/mind distinction. The mind is embodied in the sense that people think via sensorimotor experiences, and the body is "mind-ful". Although there are many consistent metaphors used by people in the past to communicate their suffering, we can also identify shifts in metaphoric use. These shifts tell us a great deal of changes in the meaning and sensation of pain. Finally, Prof. Bourke will conclude by suggesting various reasons why clinical languages of pain might have become "thinner" since the eighteenth century.

Joanna Bourke is Professor of History at Birkbeck College, University of London. She is the prize-winning author of nine books, including histories on modern warfare, military medicine, psychology and psychiatry, the emotions, and the history of rape. Awareness of gender, race and class plays a major role in professor Bourke’s work.

Treaty of Utrecht Chair

The Treaty of Utrecht was signed in 1713 and is considered to be the commencement of modern diplomacy. In 2013 we will commemorate its 300th anniversary. The Chair focuses on preserving the legacy of the Treaty of Utrecht in the context of the globalised, technologically mediated, cultural diverse world of today. The Chair is an initiative of the Province of Utrecht and is sponsored by Utrecht University, the Treaty of Utrecht Organisation and the Province of Utrecht. The Chair is hosted by the Centre for the Humanities of the Faculty of Humanities, Utrecht University.


Datum en tijd: 8/6/2011 16:15
Locatie: Aula, Academiegebouw - Domplein 29, Utrecht
Spreker: Joanna Bourke
Faculteit: Centrum voor Onderwijs en Leren
Leerstoel: Treaty of Utrecht Chair
Titel: Pain, Suffering and the Politics of empathy

Start date and time
8 June 2011 16:15
End date and time
8 June 2011 17:30
Prof. Joanna Bourke
Treaty of Utrecht Chair
Inaugural lecture
Pain, Suffering and the Politics of empathy