Between death and shame: dimensions of pain in Bariba culture

Soc Sci Med. 1984;19(12):1299-304. doi: 10.1016/0277-9536(84)90016-9.


The Bariba of Benin idealize stoicism in response to pain. Analysis of the conceptualization of pain in Bariba thought indicates that an appropriate response to pain is considered intrinsic to Bariba identity. The Bariba example offers data illuminating the pain response and detailing the implications of urbanization and industrialization for this facet of ethnicity. The subject of pain elicits from informants a cognitive map of honor and shame, rather than discussion of pain per se. Features of the socialization process, particularly circumcision and clitoridectomy, signal courage and honour as crucial values and provide a basis for the Bariba perspective towards pain.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Benin
  • Child
  • Culture*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Pregnancy