It’s Not Every Day A Friend Gets Bitten by A Brown Recluse Spider…

Or that that friend is an anthropologist, and responds accordingly.

What a Brown Recluse Spider Has Taught Me by Alma Gottlieb

After having recently received a venomous bite by a brown recluse spider in NYC, I’ve spent some time researching my arachnid attacker and discovering how to recover from the poisonous attack. Along the way, I’ve learned some life lessons.

Puzzlingly, few anthropologists have put that fundamental human experience front and center. True, some scholars discuss pain in investigating particular topics such as childbirth, endometriosis and acupuncture. But to date, the 48 sections and interest groups contained within the American Anthropological Association (with foci ranging from visual anthropology, music, and museums to agriculture, corporations, and tourism) do not include a group focusing on pain. In a rundown of some perspectives on pain from peoples around the world, anthropologist Mary Free has crafted a superb opening for an anthropological approach to pain. The brown recluse spider that deposited its poison in my leg this past weekend has suggested to me: it may be time for a new subdiscipline–the anthropology of pain.

Anthropologists: We have explored how plenty of other somatic experiences are influenced by factors beyond biology. Pregnancy and childbirth, menstruation, diseases from cancer to mental illness, and sports from walking to basketball have all claimed our attention. Yet, we live in a world of many people who experience pain routinely or even chronically. And when we’re not actively suffering from pain, we may spend much time thinking back on past episodes with amazement that we survived . . . or anticipating future episodes with dread.

To read the whole essay, click here

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About Miriam Sagan

I'm blogging about poetry, land art, haiku, women artists, road trips, and Baba Yaga at Miriam's Well ( The well is ALWAYS looking to publish poetry on our themes, sudden fiction, and guest bloggers and musers.

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