Constructing subjectivity through labour pain: A Beauvoirian analysis

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Traditional western conceptions of pain have commonly associated pain with the inability to communicate and with the absence of the self. Thus pain, it seems, must be avoided, since it is to blame for alienating the body from subjectivity and the self from others. Recent work on pain, however, has began to challenge these assumptions, mainly by discerning between different kinds of pain and by pointing out how some forms of pain might even constitute a crucial element in the production of subjectivity. This article deals with the specific form of pain that is labour pain. Pain in labour has been investigated in medicine and lately, copiously, within the social sciences. Analyses from a more philosophical perspective are still very much missing, however, and in developing such analyses, de Beauvoir’s ideas on subjectivity as inherently embodied, as situated, and as profoundly ambiguous when authentically lived, appear to be of significant use.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)128-142
Number of pages15
JournalEuropean Journal of Women's Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 May 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015, © The Author(s) 2015.


  • Body
  • childbirth
  • eroticism
  • medicalization
  • phenomenology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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