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This is a three-year interdisciplinary project to further research the value of visual images in the diagnosis and management of chronic pain. Funding comes from the Centre for Humanities Interdisciplinary Research Projects (CHIRP) Scheme.

This project brings together art and medicine in the tradition of the founding professors of the Slade who were also surgeons, addressing the public understanding of pain through both science and the humanities.

Pain: Speaking the Threshold builds on the doctoral research of Deborah Padfield  co-supervised by Dr. Sharon Morris (Slade School proposed PI) and Prof. Joanna Zakrzewska (UCLH proposed joint PI). Accessing Prof. Zakrzewska’s clinics, Padfield co-created with patients over 1,000 photographic images that reflected and symbolised their pain. From this material Padfield made a pilot pack of 54 pain cards, which were trialled as a communication tool in clinical consultations at UCLH. Video recording were made of 20 base-line consultations, without images, and 20 study consultations with images.

Taking unique data (video recordings and transcripts of pain consultations and co-created photographic images of pain) the new interdisciplinary team will produce an in-depth analysis of the effects of using visual imagery in the clinical setting, using theories of narrative, metaphor and translation drawn from Linguistics; methodologies in Medical Anthropology and History of Medicine; theories of empathy and transference from Health Psychology and Psychoanalysis.

Related Events / information

AHRC Ignite Event at the Natural History Museum
Deborah Padfield is speaking about the project at the AHRC Ignite Event at the Natural History Museum on 26 March 2014. See A video of her presentation is available online on:

Blog by Christina Lee: ablogcalledpain