Suffering and Sentiment: Exploring the Vicissitudes of Experience and Pain in Yap

Suffering and Sentiment: Exploring the Vicissitudes of Experience and Pain in Yap

Suffering and Sentiment: Exploring the Vicissitudes of Experience and Pain in Yap

Suffering and Sentiment: Exploring the Vicissitudes of Experience and Pain in Yap

Synopsis

Suffering and Sentiment examines the cultural and personal experiences of chronic and acute pain sufferers in a richly described account of everyday beliefs, values, and practices on the island of Yap (Waqab), Federated States of Micronesia. C. Jason Throop provides a vivid sense of Yapese life as he explores the local systems of knowledge, morality, and practice that pertain to experiencing and expressing pain. In so doing, Throop investigates the ways in which sensory experiences like pain can be given meaningful coherence in the context of an individual's culturally constituted existence. In addition to examining the extent to which local understandings of pain's characteristics are personalized by individual sufferers, the book sheds important new light on how pain is implicated in the fashioning of particular Yapese understandings of ethical subjectivity and right action.

Excerpt

There we sat, cross-legged, quietly facing each other with my digital recorder between us. Humidity still clung to the air despite the slight breeze that had arrived with the beginning of sunset. Twilight had brought the anticipated annoyance of mosquitoes; it had also brought a play of light and shadow that made it almost impossible for me to make out Fal’eag’s facial expression in the already darkened space of the community house. Reaching for my basket, I somewhat apprehensively began feeling around for some betel nut to chew. I had come to find such moments of silence between us comforting. And yet at this moment, I was anything but comfortable. Should I say something? I wondered. Or was it better to prepare my betel nut, begin chewing, and wait. As I had come to learn, it was always better to wait.

After a few minutes Fal’eag began speaking again. This time his voice was distant, like he was still lost in the shadowy world of reverie that seemed to have consumed him when our conversation had last stopped. The pain, he said, had been unbearable. It was like nothing he had ever felt before; he could not find the words to describe it. It was a pain so intense, so insufferable, that it was all that he knew. He could not feel his body, only pain. It was, he said, a pain for which “it would have been good had I died.” At that moment I was thankful for the encroaching darkness. It was better for both of us that I was unable to make out whether or not there were tears in his eyes.

Pain is a basic existential fact of our distinctly human way of being-inthe-world. To be human is to be vulnerable to both the possibility and . . .

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