AIAS Fellows' Seminar: Ronald Fischer, AIAS Fellow

The paradox of shared suffering: Tales (and numbers) about pain, ritual and culture

2015.07.07 | AIAS

Date Mon 23 Nov
Time 14:15 16:00
Location The AIAS Auditorium, Building 1632, Høegh-Guldbergs Gade 6B, 8000 Aarhus C


Why do people want to suffer? The avoidance of pain and suffering is one of the most central evolutionary principles, yet we humans routinely indulge in countless activities where people suffer. Fire-walking, piercing, fasting, running, martial arts displays and other rituals of high ordeal that involve costs to participants are common in many cultures of the world. In this talk I will tackle this paradox of pain from multiple disciplinary angles. Using examples and data from my field research, primarily with religious communities in Thailand, I will discuss the various neurocognitive, social and inter-group processes that might play a role in public displays of pain. What is the motivation of people to engage or watch these activities? How does voluntary pain affect both actors and spectators? How do such activities contribute to both the maintenance and change of cultural systems? Ultimately, these questions tap into deeper evolutionary questions of how we humans evolved as biological species with complex systems of ritual, religion and culture. What can pain teach us about ourselves?



Ronald Fischer's project at AIAS.

What is a Fellows' Seminar?

The AIAS Fellows' Seminar is a session of seminars held by the AIAS fellows or by other speakers proposed by the fellows. In each seminar, one fellow will present and discuss his/her current research and research project, closing off with a question and discussion session.

All seminars are held in English and open to the public. Registration to the seminar is not necessary. Read more about the AIAS Fellows' Seminar here.