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As a 5th year medical student of Somali origin with a longstanding interest in the intersection of culture and illness, I particularly enjoyed the Editor’s Choice article entitled ‘Adaptive frameworks of chronic pain: daily remakings of pain and care at a Somali refugee women’s health centre’ by Kari Campeau. I was especially impressed by the way in which Campeau captured how one’s distinct racial and religious character can impact the way chronic pain is understood and responded to by one’s self and by others.
Particularly disheartening was Campeau’s analysis of how these women often suffer exclusionary sentiment within medical spaces and are consequently less inclined to seek medical treatment for their pain. Understandably, for the women in question, visiting the doctor confers an emotional and communicative labour on top of a pre-existing medical complaint, and ultimately may not be ‘worth it’. The philosopher Miranda Fricker describes a ‘testimonial injustice’, which is a form of epistemic prejudice whereby for marginalised people, there is a diminished level of credibility applied to their word. From Campeau’s research, it appears this type of prejudice may have been at play when her participants had interacted with clinicians.
As to Campeau’s exploration of the intersection between religion and pain, I would disagree that pain is understood through a wholly fatalistic lens among this cohort. Somalis, who are largely Muslim, believe not only in pre-orda...
As to Campeau’s exploration of the intersection between religion and pain, I would disagree that pain is understood through a wholly fatalistic lens among this cohort. Somalis, who are largely Muslim, believe not only in pre-ordainment but also that it is necessary to “Treat sickness, for Allah has not created any disease except that He has also created the cure, except for one disease… [old age]” as stated in the Hadith (Islamic scripture). This might serve to elucidate the seeming dichotomy between the women who Campeau refers to as ‘denying [their] individual efficacy in the face of external control, [but who] also actively sought medical resource’.
As is true for all ethnic minorities in a Western context, Somali women inherently diverge from hegemonic norms and inhabit racialisable and orientalisable bodies. I think it would be fascinating to explore whether the racism and prejudice that are endemic to the experiences of racialisable people, can be also implicated in producing chronic pain as well as impeding the efforts made to treat it.