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Bodywork: Self-harm, trauma, and embodied expressions of pain


Gurung, K, Bodywork: Self-harm, trauma, and embodied expressions of pain, Arts and Humanities in Higher Education, 17, (1) pp. 32-47. ISSN 1474-0222 (2018) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright The Author(s) 2016

DOI: doi:10.1177/1474022216684634


Self-harm, or self-mutilation, is generally viewed in academic literature as a pathological act, usually born out of trauma and/or a psychological and personality defect. Individuals who engage in self-harm are usually seen as damaged, destructive, and pathological. While self-harm is not a desirable act, this paper argues through the narratives of those who engage in such acts that self-harm may be better construed as a meaningful, embodied emotional practice, bound up in social (mis)understandings of psychological pain and how best to attend to such pain. In particular, this paper suggests that those who engage in self-harm practices are performing embodied, socially situated acts of healing, survival, and self-creation in a physical attempt to retell complex, fragmented stories of abuse, existential angst, trauma, and loss of self. While these individuals may be more or less successful in such attempts, this paper suggests that understandings of self-harm would benefit from more nuanced approaches to individuals’ embodied expressions of pain that take into account the difficult nature of psychological suffering and the effects of trauma.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:self-harm, emotions, trauma, embodied practices, pain narratives
Research Division:Education
Research Group:Education policy, sociology and philosophy
Research Field:Sociology of education
Objective Division:Culture and Society
Objective Group:Other culture and society
Objective Field:Other culture and society not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Gurung, K (Miss Kesherie Gurung)
ID Code:127293
Year Published:2018
Web of Science® Times Cited:11
Deposited By:Office of the School of Social Sciences
Deposited On:2018-07-20
Last Modified:2018-12-03

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