Matthew Soleiman

Ph.D. Candidate, Department of History, University of California, San Diego

2022 to 2023
Research Fellow

The Person in Pain: A Genealogy of Bodily Experience, 1906-1999

What is the nature of pain? So asked researchers across the mind and brain sciences over the twentieth century. In the postwar era, scientists increasingly reconfigured pain as something more than the experience of an injury. It became a state of the entire nervous system, of the whole person, including a thinking, feeling, and culturally enmeshed brain. This project traces the rise of a holistic yet thoroughly biological understanding of pain within and beyond the sciences. It examines how and why this shift in the history of the body took place when it did and how it shaped the sciences, clinical practice, and ultimately the possibilities for American public health in the late twentieth century. In constructing a new genealogy of bodily experience, this research can help us to reexamine dominant portrayals of not only the neurosciences, but also the ongoing opioid crisis.