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SEMINAR: Anthropology and Sociology Seminar Series

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Today's date is Saturday, August 15, 2020
Anthropology and Sociology Seminar Series : The Cultural Invisibility of Autonomic Stress: Navigating a Life With Fibromyalgia Other events...
Fibromyalgia is a neurosensory condition characterised by widespread pain, stiffness and non-restorative sleep. Individuals often also experience cognitive difficulties commonly termed fibro-fog, and altered sensory and visceral states associated with a chronically activated autonomic stress response. However, these sensory and visceral experiences are poorly understood in the Western biomedical model. Alongside similar and often related conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis, multiple chemical sensitivity and irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia is frequently listed under the category of MUS – ‘medically unexplained symptoms’. From its earlier incarnations under the names neurasthenia, fibrositis and psychogenic rheumatism, it has remained a controversial condition in relation to whether it should be viewed as an organic illness of body or an inorganic illness of mind. This fundamental schism in Western biomedicine has greatly limited insight into the cultural and neurophysiological processes that underlie the development of fibromyalgia. Trauma, stress, accidents and viral illnesses are all common precursors, and research is increasingly elucidating epigenetic factors whereby environmental triggers alter gene expression, leading to the onset of post-traumatic pain and autonomic dysregulation. In this paper I share some of the experiences of my research participants in navigating the challenges of living with fibromyalgia and the frequent invisibility of their lifeworlds to others. I consider what has gone wrong in medical perceptions of the condition, and how peoples' sensory and visceral symptoms offer clues that may also be channels for healing. How might redundant dichotomies be replaced by more helpful approaches and, more broadly, how might there be a re-synchronisation of culture and homeostasis that engenders human well-being?

Sally Robertson is a PhD student in Anthropology and Sociology at The University of Western Australia. Her research interests include the relationship between culture and physiology, cross-cultural insights into different approaches to health and illness, neuroanthropological insights into sensory experience and human adaptation, interspecies connectivity, and creative approaches to healing trauma and restoring well-being
Speaker(s) Sally Robertson
Location Social Sciences Building, Room 2204
Contact Farida Fozdar <[email protected]>
Start Fri, 06 Sep 2019 14:30
End Fri, 06 Sep 2019 15:30
Submitted by Karen Eichorn <[email protected]>
Last Updated Mon, 02 Sep 2019 10:49
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