Social Suffering

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Social Suffering
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The lived experience of pain, damage, injury, deprivation and loss as a result of a society -Focuses on what suffering does to people, such as how people experience, represent, live through and respond to the suffering -Focuses on extreme forms of suffering, such as torture and genocides, because it is more obvious that suffering has occurred
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Events that could result in Social Suffering
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-Social inequalities -Wars and genocides -Routine exploitation -Rape and domestic violence -Famines -Racism and other isms -Natural catastrophes -Medical treatments
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Modernity and Suffering
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Societies dominated by the pursuit of profit and cold rationalization often leave no public space for emotional wealth, resulting in suffering of the exploited -Have a diminished sense of another’s individuality -More self centered community
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Religions and Suffering
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Religions try to explain the reality of evil in the world using divine forces -Theodicy: Why God is justified in allowing suffering and evil Sociology tries to explain the social, economic and political sources of evil -Sociodicy: Social suffering is accounted for social inequalities and hierarchies of power
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Areas of work in Suffering
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1. Genocides and Holocaust Studies 2. Ethnography of Suffering 3. Mass Media and Suffering 4. Medical Anthropology
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Genocides and Holocaust Studies
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-Holocaust literature is used to understand the social and historical causes -Language of suffering must be able to show immediacy of the event but does not trivialize or over-explains events
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Torture
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Lots of research by Jean Amery -The first blow is when a part of a life ends and can never be recovered -Once the new self has a \”border violation\”, the original can never be recovered -Torture is rape in the way that the torture forces themselves on others -At the first blow, one loses trust in the world -Death of the original self occurs -Whoever was tortured stays tortured
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Ethnography of Suffering
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Social suffering occurs when political and economic conditions create social conditions that alienate a group of people ~> economic hardship and political injustice
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\”The Weight of the World\”
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By Bourdieu -Studies the working class families in France -Lives and living of those individuals is very demeaning -The people have a massive sense of alienation and despair -This results in damage to the person’s sense of dignity and self worth, believing they have no escape
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Mass Media and Suffering
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-Studied to understand the role of mass media in the formation of consciousness and humanitarian concern -Mediatized suffering results in not always a proper account of the suffering because tailoring for an audience -Through media, audiences may feel morally and politically detached from suffering
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Audience Reactions
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Whether the public reacts with indifference ignoring or denying the moral responsibility or engages in social action Types of negative reactions: -Compassion fatigue: getting so much suffering that are weary -States of Denial: turn a blind eye when faced with media representations of suffering
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Medical Anthropology
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Addresses the extent to which the pain sensation is a product of the neuro-physiological processes, social contexts and cultural meanings -Makes significance of lived experience of human suffering as part of the diagnostic process of language
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\”The Nature of Suffering and the Goals of Medicine\”
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By Eric Cassel -Suffering is not directly addressed in medical education -This results in not all of the pain being treated -Suffering is experience by people, not just by bodies, so social and psychological factors come into play (mind and body suffer together)
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Three Key Points of Suffering
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-Suffering is experience by the whole person, body and mind (Suffering is very personal) -Suffering occurs when an impending destruction of the person is perceived -Suffering can occur in relation to any aspect of the person, such as social roles and group identification
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Alleviating Suffering
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-Knowing the source of the pain, changing its meaning, demonstrating control over it and showing the end is almost over with it can help with the suffering -No relief if the personal meaning isn’t considered
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Sociology of Compassion
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Studies the historical and social processes where compassion for others’ suffering shapes the definition of social problems -Makes suffering visible -Creates a sense of moral obligations to strangers -Identifies causes of suffering and takes actions of remedy suffering -Recognizes, validates and respects the dignity of the sufferer -Progress relies on science, rationality and profits but also humanitarian feelings -Compassion may be a result of the intensifying capitalist force

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