Catherine Kerr (1964-2016)

Catherine Kerr (1964-2016) passed away on November 12th 2016, at the age of 52, succumbing to a bone marrow cancer that she fought with great courage for over two decades. Catherine was a Harvard neuroscientist before being nominated Director of Translational Neuroscience in the Contemplative Studies Initiative at Brown University, where she created the Embodied Neuroscience lab. Her well-viewed TEDx talk is devoted to mindfulness and the brain.

Photo by: Tenzin Choejor OHHDL

Catherine Kerr (1964-2016)I first met Cathy in 2006, at the former Osher Center for Alternative Medicine at Harvard, when she invited me to give a talk on Levinas’ ethics. Our exchanges followed, and ultimately brought us to work together during my 17 month-long Cambridge stay. At the beginning our exchanges were informal, grabbing a sandwich at the MIT Stata Center while discussing human suffering and our possibilities to build bridges in research to provide relief and better understanding of the pained. And even though Cathy was immediately open about her cancer, it was never an issue compared to the achievements lying ahead.

With the support of Ted Kaptchuk, we then created the International and Interdisciplinary Group on Pain and Suffering, a group of 3 people whose existence was only proven by a document on Harvard letterhead. Once my stay was over, and upon my return to Europe, Cathy and I started contacting scholars all over the world in order to insufflate life to our concept and ideas. Our group, that includes 30 members, was formalized with the award I received from the European Science Foundation, and that allowed us to organize two international conferences; Cathy participated in the first one and her talk is available on our website.

I loved Cathy’s profound wisdom and her sense of excellence, combined with deep acceptance of human nature with all its weakness. I was mesmerized by her language and brilliance, and working together was always an exhilarating experience, giving the impression we may actually change the world with our small-scale endeavor.

At some point Cathy halted her contribution. This is the event I would like to talk about, as her renouncement was an important lesson for me on life priorities.

In 2011, five years after we first met, I returned to Harvard in order complete our paper. Upon my arrival, Cathy announced that she would no longer continue with the program, as her involvement stopped at the creation of the group. I remember that we were in front of our salads, sitting on high chairs, when she declared to me that she was not even sure of completing our paper. Cathy generously invited me to stay in her house so that we could work together. To my disappointment, it was not a very fruitful time, and even though Cathy did not say anything, I had the impression that she was weak and overloaded.

One morning she left the door of her daily Qi Gong practice open, and when I was searching for her around the house, she invited me in. Through the doorway, I was struck by her body full of sweat, dripping down her face and arms. I was surprised at the ability of a person to bring herself to deploy such a physical effort while sitting down in a yoga position. Cathy then explained to me that she managed to maintain herself healthy and fight cancer through this daily management of her bodily energy. That was six years ago and I was enthusiastic when I later learnt about the “Vitality Project” she initiated at the Embodied Neuroscience lab, devoted to a clinical trial she designed for investigating the healing role of Qi Gong in cancer survivors.

Cathy’s open demonstration that very morning taught me that a person with an illness cannot fight a death sentence, but can extend his or her time with the right balance between the physical and the mental.

We never completed our paper because Cathy was worried that without experimental studies, our claims could not be published. Much work on alexithymia has been completed since, and I am glad to confirm that her foresight, direction and views were proven right.

My beloved Cathy, your personal and intellectual giving will not be forgotten, it was my honor and my happiness to have known you. I express my deep condolences to Jonathan Kranes, your wonderful life-long husband, to your family, and to the academic community that allowed you to make such ground breaking research.

For information and donations on the “Catherine Kerr Award for Courageous and Compassionate Science”:

Written by Smadar Bustan for the gathering “Celebrating the life of Catherine Kerr”

+ Dr. Catherine Kerr (1964-2016)

Joanna Bourke- The Story of Pain, From Prayer to Painkillers

The Story of Pain From Prayer to Painkillers

The Story of Pain, From Prayer to Painkillers / by Joanna Bourke.

“The story of pain and suffering since the eighteenth century Addresses the big questions about the experience and nature of suffering – and how to respond to it. Charts how our understanding of pain has changed completely over the last three centuries – from positive function to ultimate evil. A fascinating investigation for the 21st century reader into how we have coped with suffering in the past – both our own suffering and that of the ones we love.”  Oxford University Press

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Dr. Kenneth Craig appointed into the Order of Canada

Please join us in congratulating Dr. Kenneth Craig, who was appointed as Officer of the Order of Canada.

On July 1, 2015, his Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, announced the new appointments to the Order of Canada in recognition of “outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation.” A world-renowned pain expert, Dr. Craig’s research focuses upon pain assessment and management, socialization of individual differences in pain experience and expression, social parameters of care delivery and pain in infants, children and people with communication limitations.

From: The University of British Columbia website


An Interdisciplinary Symposium


PASCOM at the Interdisciplinary Symposium (Health and Phenomenology) at OXFORD UNIVERSITY, Torch Research Center

“On the 27th & 28th March, the Oxford Phenomenology Network hosted this inaugural conference at the Oxford Research Centre in The Humanities, bringing together a wide array of disciplines for a fascinating exchange of ideas, research, and critique within the context of medical and phenomenological studies in health. Its mission statement was to “explore the interrelations between phenomenology and health from a wide variety of perspectives” (event organisers Cleo Hanaway-Oakley and Erin Lafford; see Cleo’s post on the Life of Breath blog, ‘To breath is all that is required‘). This was certainly achieved, via talks on subjects from philosophical, medical, literary and scientific perspectives including the phenomenology of mental health; of disability; of motherhood; in literature; of living and dying; of breast cancer; in medical encounters, and many more. “

“Most of the talks were relevant to our project remit by virtue of the focus on phenomenology and health. However, some themes stood out, including link between chronic pain and breathlessness that runs through several previous posts (see, for example, Breathless in Cambridge and Signal Failure? Thinking outside the lung). Indeed, the conference provided refreshing opportunities to see how phenomenological insights have guided research. This was shown in Smadar Bustan and Sandra Kamping’s paper on combining phenomenology and experimental pain research. It reminded me of how models such as ‘total pain’ have been used to create analogous ‘total dyspnoea’ models, and how these alternative models incorporate a fuller picture of the impact of pain and suffering on the whole embodied and socially-situated person, rather than focusing on symptoms.”

Breathless in Oxford


Creative Dialogues: Narrative and Medicine

Creative Dialogues:Isabel Fernandes, Cecilia Beecher Martins, Amândio Reis, Zuzanna SanchesThe anthology to which some of the group members contributed, Creative Dialogues; Narrative and Medicine (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2015), has just come out. You can have a look at it in:

I want to thank Isabel Fernandes from the University of Lisbon Center for English Studies (ULICES), chief editor of the anthology, for having included some of the texts from our first conference in Luxembourg (2009). I also attended the fascinating and pioneering Lisbon conference which gave rise to this volume. And based on the conferences and written outcome, I strongly invite you to read the very thoughtful and deep texts enclosed.


Prof. Joanna Bourke

Prof.-Joanna-BourkeJoanna Bourke is a Professor of History at Birkbeck College, University of London. She is the prize-winning author of eleven books, including histories on modern warfare, military medicine, psychology and psychiatry, the emotions and rape. Among others, she is the author of Dismembering the Male: Men’s Bodies, Britain, and the Great War (1996), An Intimate History of Killing (1999), Fear: A Cultural History (2005) and Rape: A History from the 1860s to the Present (2007). Her book, What it Means to be Human: Reflections from 1791 to the Present, was published by Virago in 2011. In 2014, she was the author of The Story of Pain: From Prayer to Painkillers (OUP) and Wounding the World: How Military Violence and War-Play are Invading our Lives(Virago, November 2014). Her books have been translated into Chinese, Russian, Spanish, Catalan, Italian, Portuguese, Czech, Turkish, and Greek. An Intimate History of Killing won the Wolfson Prize and the Fraenkel Prize. Her 40-CD audio history of Britain, entitled “Eyewitness” won the Gold for the Best Audio Production for Volume 1910-1919, the Gold for the Best Audio Production for Volume 1940-1949, and the Gold for the Most Original Audio for all 10 volumes. She is a frequent contributor to TV and radio shows, and a regular correspondent for newspapers.

Dr. Serge Marchand

Dr.-Serge-MarchandDr. Serge Marchand, Ph.D., is a Professor of Medicine at the Univ. de Sherbrooke, directing the pain research labs at the Research Center of the Sherbrooke University hospital. He received his PhD in Neuroscience from the Université de Montréal in 1992 and then after completed his post-doctoral training in neuroanatomy at the University of California, San Francisco in 1994. He is the author of several articles and book chapters in the field of pain mechanisms and treatment and is the author of the book “The Phenomenon of Pain” at IASP press 2012 and the book “Mental Health and Pain” at Springer Press 2014. His projects aim at better understanding the role of factors such as sex hormones, the autonomic, spinal and cortical activity related to pain perception in healthy subjects during their development, from infants to elderly and in different population of patients suffering from chronic pain. Prof. Marchand’s research is characterized by a close link between fundamental and clinical projects on the neurophysiological and psychological mechanisms implicated in the development and the persistency of chronic pain.

MARINA NEMAT Wins Geneva Human Rights Prize

GENEVA, May 14 – Geneva-based human rights group UN Watch announced today that it will be awarding its prestigious annual human rights prize next week to Iranian dissident and best-selling author Marina Nemat, now living in Canada, who was jailed and tortured as a political prisoner in Tehran when was only 16 years old.

“UN Watch is honoring Marina Nemat for her brave and outstanding work worldwide in bearing witness to the horrific crimes perpetrated against her by a regime that continues to assault, jail, torture, rape and execute human rights defenders, religious, ethnic and sexual minorities, and thousands of other innocent men, women and children,” said UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer.

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Marina Nemat

Dr. Bustan Smadar Publications

Dr. Smadar Bustan, is a philosopher-phenomenologist, who conducts experimental studies on pain and suffering at the University of Luxembourg. She is the Founder and Coordinator of the Interdisciplinary and International Program on Suffering and Pain.

Her research and publications cover the fields of phenomenology, ethics and political philosophy, mind-body theories, and the bridge between the Continental and American philosophies. She is working on a theory on Pain and Suffering that is being tested experimentally in the framework of the PASCOM collaborative project between the University of Luxembourg and the Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim, Germany. She focuses on the pivotal concept of pre-reflectivity and her theory in development is the conductive thread of a planned trilogy, with a first book in French “From intellectualism to Ethics – Emmanuel Levinas and the Phenomenology of Edmund Husserl” (Ousia, 2014, 480 pages).

The major philosophical-scientific contribution of her work consists in: firstly, introducing in her book the idea of pre-reflexivity as a bridging concept between a theory according to which everything is considered using our mind (Husserl’s Phenomenology) and a theory by which certain life events are disruptive to this reflexive course (Levinas’ Ethics). She shows that instead of a philosophical split, the bridging new ethical phenomenological orientation allows to explain the passage from pre-cognitive to cognitive experiences. Secondly, taking the example of pain and suffering, she philosophically defines these phenomena and demonstrates their paradigmatic role. Thirdly and finally, a series of scientific papers test these assumptions on suffering while proposing a methodology to be included in the experimental and medical research on pain. Based on her and her collaborators findings in the laboratory, she claims that suffering is an inherent factor of the pain experience and a component to be added to the currently used parameters (intensity and unpleasantness) when evaluating the experience of the pained. Among the awards she has received, Dr. Smadar Bustan was a Sachs Fellow (Harvard University) and won an ESF Exploratory Workshop grant [EW08-024].



1. Bustan S. (2014), De l’intellectualisme à l’éthique – Emmanuel Levinas et la phénoménologie d’Edmund Husserl, Bruxelles: Ousia, 480 pages.

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2. Bustan S. and Anton F. editors (12/2014), Fundamental Transdisciplinary Questions on Suffering and Pain, 24 authors, 11 chapters, 550 pages, Springer New York.

3. Bustan S. A phenomenological theory on Suffering and Pain, for 2015, contract under negotiation.

Book Chapters

4. Bustan S. (2014). « On the limits of knowing Suffering and Pain», in. Isabel Fernandes (ed.), Creative Dialogues: Narrative and Medicine, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 17 pages, in press.

5. Bustan S. (2012). «Levinas, Husserl et la nouvelle orientation éthique-phénoménologique», in. Recherches Lévinassiennes volume II, Londres, Louvain-Paris: éditions Peters, p. 259-274.

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6. Bustan S. (2009). « L’ambiguïté d’une éthique de la souffrance dans la pénsée française contemporaine», Maurice Blanchot et la Philosophie, suivi de trois articles de Maurice Blanchot, Eric Hoppenot et Alain Milon Dirs., coll. Résonances de Maurice Blanchot, Paris: éd. Presses Universitaires de Paris Ouest, pp. 179-198.

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7. Bustan S. (2008). « Trois préludes sur les divergences entre Levinas et Blanchot: la Transcendance, la Mort et le Neutre », Sous la direction d’Eric Hoppenot et Alain Milon, Levinas, Blanchot, penser la différence, Paris : éditions des Presses Universitaires de Paris 10, pp. 63-79.

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Peer reviewed Articles

8. Bustan S. (2011). « Suffering», for “Mafte’akh” the Israeli Lexical Review of Political Thought. Online Journal, University of Tel-Aviv, n. 3, p. 151-178.

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9. Bustan S. (submitted 2011). «Entre politique et politique – sur le double sens du terme chez Maurice Blanchot», Blanchot et le Politique, collection Résonances de Maurice Blanchot, Sous la direction d’Eric Hoppenot et Alain Milon, Paris: éditions des Presses Universitaires de Paris 10, 18 pages, publication 2014.

10. Bustan S., Kerr C. (2010). «Feeling without awareness: converging phenomenological and neuroscientific approaches to acute Suffering », 20 pages expected publication in Anglo-Saxónica in  10/14.

11. Bustan S. (2010). «Givenness and the Orthodox Jew Aporias in Jean-Luc Marion’s theory of the Saturated Phenomena», Revue ThéoRème – enjeux philosophiques des approaches empiriques de la religion, n. 1, (with a responding article by Jean-Luc Marion). DOI: 10.4000/theoremes.63, p. 1-17.

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12. Bustan S. (2009). «Apologia or Phenomenologia? On chapter 6 of In Excess », Revue Biblique, T. 116-1, April 2009, pp. 163-173.

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13. Bustan S. (2006). «Levinas et Husserl : dépasser l’intellectualisme philosophique», Revue internationale de philosophie – Emmanuel Levinas, 1/2006 (n° 235), p. 35-59.

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Book prefaces

14. Bustan S. (2008). Book Preface (Hebrew) «Three circles of Life and Writing», in. trans. The Step (not) Beyond by Maurice Blanchot, Tel-Aviv: Resling editorial, pp. 7-42.

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15. Bustan S. (2007). Book Preface (Hebrew), «On Givenness and the Saturated Phenomena», in. trans. In-Excess by Jean-Luc Marion, Tel-Aviv: Resling editorial House, pp. 7-38.

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Book Translations and annotations (from French into Hebrew)

16. M. Blanchot, The step (not) beyond, trans. Smadar Bustan, Tel-Aviv: Resling Publishers, Israel, 2009.

17. Jean-Luc Marion, In-Excess, trans. Smadar Bustan, Tel-Aviv: Resling Publishers, Israel, 2007.

18. E. Levinas, Humanism of the other person, trans. Smadar Bustan, Jerusalem: Bialik Institute, 2004.

Posters presented at scientific conferences (PASCOM): Neural circuits conference, Heidelberg 2013; German Pain Congress, Hamburg 2013; Argentina, World Congress on Pain 2014.

Invited Speaker (a selection)

  1. Apr. 2014, University of Helsinki, What is Suffering and How
 to Resolve the Split Between Phenomenology and Science, At the Limits of Phenomenology, 12th Annual Conference of the Nordic Society for Phenomenology.
  2. Feb. 2014, University of Heidelberg, Center of Biomedicine and Medical Center of Biomedicine and Medical Technology Mannheim, CBTM (Prof. Walter Magerl), On the necessity to introduce the dimension of suffering into the scientific and medical research.
  3. Dec. 2013, University Paris Sorbonne, Philosophy department (Prof. Daniel Andler), Définir la souffrance pour la recherche médicale-scientifiqe et surmonter les conflits méthodologiques.
  4. Oct. 2013, University Clinic Heidelberg, Phenomenology and Psychology Department, (Prof. Thomas Fuchs), When phenomenology meets psychophysics: defining suffering for experimental pain research.
  5. Nov. 2012, Institut Catholique de Paris, Key note speaker, La Souffrance: une force de vie? Friedrich Nietzsche.
  6. Aug. 2012, 14th World Congress on Pain, Milan, Reflections on Suffering (SIG: Working with Survivors of Torture and Conflict).
  7. Feb. 2012, Institut Catholique de Paris, Laboratoire de phénoménologie, De l’intellectualisme à l’éthique: Emmanuel Lévinas et  la phénoménologie d’Edmund Husserl.
  8. Dec. 2011, Zentrum für Literatur und Kulturforschung, Berlin, International Conference, On Suffering.
  9. September 2010, University of Lisbon, Centre for English Studies, On the limits of narrating Suffering and Pain, Medicine and Narrative International Conference.
  10. May 2010 Hebrew University, Scholion, On the limits of knowing Pain and Suffering, Knowledge and Pain International Conference.
  11. Nov. 2009 University of Luxembourg, Feeling without awareness: converging phenomenological and neuroscientific approaches to acute Suffering in. ESF explanatory workshop (convenor, speaker).
  12. May 2009 Nanterre University (Paris 10), Entre politique et politique – sur le double sens du terme chez Blanchot, Maurcie Blanchot, Communauté, Politique et Histoire 1931-2003, international conference.
  13. Nov. 2008 Tel-Aviv University, On the notion of suffering for the Israeli political and legal dictionary, Minerva international conference.
  14. June 2008 Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, Placebos: ethics, science and clinical reality.
  15. May 2008 Sorbonne Paris 1, How far can a particularist go? On Dancy’s ethics, Philosophy, Practices and the practice of Philosophy International conference.
  16. May 2008 Nanterre Sorbonne Paris 10, L’éthique de la souffrance, Blanchot international conference.
  17. Jan. 2008 Van-Leer Institute Jerusalem  – Givenness – a dialogue with Jean-Luc Marion, organizer and a keynote speaker.
  18. Nov. 2007 Boston University Philosophy DepartmentEthics before/without Ontology in Putnam and Levinas, PhD School conference.
  19. 2007 Osher Institute, Harvard Medical School – Healing, Placebo and Ethics Meeting, The Ethics of Emmanuel Levinas and the Patient-Doctor Relationship.
  20. 2006 Paris UNESCO, International conference, Un siècle avec Levinas: Levinas – Blanchot, penser la différence, Trois préludes sur les divergences entre Levinas et Blanchot.
  21. 2006 Cluny Conférence, International conference, Un siècle avec Levinas: Levinas en héritage, Levinas, Husserl et la nouvelle orientation éthique phénoménologique.
  22. 2003 Beijing University, China, Philosophy Department, the PhD/Post Doc advanced school, The meaning lies in the absence – Emmanuel Levinas’ theory of meaning.
  23. 2001 Beer-Sheva University, Israel, Israeli Philosophy Foundation Annual Meeting, Doubting the human Conscious and not the conscience of doubt II: The tensions between Husserl’s phenomenology and Levinas’ ethics.
  24. 2000 Beer-Sheva University, Israel, The Israeli Philosophy Foundation Annual Meeting, Doubting the human Conscious and not the conscience of doubt I: The tensions between Husserl’s phenomenology and Levinas’ ethics
  25. 1999 Haifa University, Israel, The Israeli Philosophy Foundation Annual Meeting, Ethical subject or reasoning subject: Levinas’ criticism on Husserl’s theory of internationality
  26. 1998 Haifa University, Philosophy Department, Israel, Escaping Ontology, PhD advanced School conference.
  27. 1998 Tel-Aviv University, Israel, The Israeli Philosophy Foundation Annual Meeting, Here I am: ethics and prophesy in Levinas’ philosophy.

Professor Jean Decety has been awarded With The International Neuropsychology Prize

Professor Jean Decety has been awarded the 2013 J.-L. Signoret Neuropsychology Prize awarded by the Fondation IPSEN in Paris. The international prize recognizes Decety’s scholarship on new understandings of empathy, affective processes, and moral decision-making in children and adults, as well as individuals who have dysfunctions in those social and emotional abilities, such as psychopaths.

Recipients of the prize are selected by an international jury that recognizes a scholar of recently published important research in the field of behavioral neurology. Decety is the Irving B. Harris Professor of Psychology and has a secondary appointment in the Department of Psychiatry.

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