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Embodied Histories: Cultural History of, in, and through the Human Body

16th Annual Conference of the International Society for Cultural History

04.-06. September 2024 – University of Potsdam, Germany 

The International Society for Cultural History (ISCH) organises annual conferences since 2008. The subject of this year’s 16th conference in Potsdam, Germany, is “Embodied Histories: Cultural History of, in, and through the Human Body”.

Human actions and interactions are mediated and expressed through the body. Even abstract thoughts and philosophical ideas are transmitted through moving and acting bodies (speaking and hearing; writing and reading). Beyond contacts and interactions among themselves, throughout history humans have also sought to establish contact and relationships with transcendental spheres and divinities through bodily movements and performances even while remaining firmly bound to the materiality of bodies and the material world generally. Embodied Histories refers to the cultural history of the human body – for example, what humans have thought and said about bodies, how they have moved, and what they have done to their own and others’ bodies – but also to telling cultural history through the human body, investigating how bodies and body conceptions have been impacted by political, social, economical, and cultural shifts. How do individual human bodies function within and in relation to social, civic, and political bodies? How do collective images and normative ideas of the body influence and shape individuals and their body practices? Embodied Histories is interested in investigating the cultural history of both whole bodies and body parts – as well as the bases and rationales for the subdivision and fragmentation of bodies.

Embodied Histories: Cultural History of, in, and through the Human Body

04.-06. September 2024, Potsdam, Germany

For its 2024 conference, the International Society for Cultural History invites paper and panel proposals on the theme of “Embodied Histories.” Historians and contextually oriented scholars working on any period or location are encouraged to explore (but are by no means limited to) the following topics:

  • representations and conceptualizations of the human body and its parts
  • categorizations, marginalizations, and discriminations of the body; racialized bodies, gendered bodies
  • histories of medicine and of therapy
  • changing bodies from childhood to old age
  • disability history
  • politics of the body
  • body norms, their negotiations, and their social and cultural repercussions
  • cultural constructions of beautiful, healthy, and desirable bodies
  • bodily performances and practices in different contexts
  • commodification of the body and its parts
  • bodies and body parts in religious contexts
  • bodily functions, body fluids and gasses, and their cultural significance
  • punishments and constraints of the body and its parts; bodily (self)control
  • temporary and permanent body modifications and enhancements
  • discourses and practices of the dead body
  • bodies in movement, mobile bodies, bodies and political borders
  • bodies in personal and social interaction
  • bodies in conflict and war
  • perceiving and perceived bodies
  • bodily pleasures
  • violence to and abuses of the body
  • boundaries of the body, their transgressions, and their violations
  • reconstructing history through the body: reenactments, experimental archaeology
  • topographies of the human body and identification of its components

As always, we also welcome panel and paper proposals on methods and theories of cultural history; new approaches to cultural history; and the history of cultural history.


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University of Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany
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