Bodies in Transition

Dissolving the Boundaries of Embodied Knowledge

Ort: Universität zu Köln, Albertus-Magnus-Platz, Seminargebäude Tagungsraum

Organisation & Anmeldung: Monika Esser (monika.esser(at)

Konzeption: Alan Shapiro, Frank Wascheck (frank.wascheck(at), Jörn Lang

Download Poster
Download Flyer

The conference is designed to explore the notion of “embodied knowledge” from the perspective of the classical Greco-Roman world. In particular, we investigate examples of the crossing or dissolution of boundaries of the human embodied knowledge caused by deformation, hybridity, and the like.

Studies of ‘knowledge’ and of ‘the body’ often intersect in recent approaches to cultural studies. Social practices determine the form of the normative body, which in turn imposes certain behaviors on us. When these customs and norms are violated, embodied knowledge is destabilized and transformed.

Bodies are by their very nature unstable forms, and the transgression of boundaries can be unnerving. Embodied knowledge is thereby short-circuited, turning order into chaos.

One way of bringing transgressive bodies under control is through the medium of visual representation. The image makes order out of chaos; the body is objectified and, in a later phase, even estheticized.

Images of boundary-crossing bodies are especially susceptible to new interpretations, one reason for their persistence across cultures. The viewer sets a fixed image in motion, imagines a multiplicity of other forms, other meanings. In this respect the conference “Fluide Körper – Bodies in Transition” reflects one of the missions of the Center for Advanced Studies ‘Morphomata’ – to study how cultural phenomena remain consistent in form but take on new meanings over time and across borders.

Audio recordings

Steven Van Wolputte (Leuven/Köln): An Anthropologist´s Perspective

Francois Lissarrague (Paris): Bodies and Shield Devices

Eric R. Varner (Atlanta): Fluidity and Fluctuation

Despoina Tsiafakis (Xanthi): Thracian Tattoos

Hans Bernsdorff (Frankfurt/M.): Beschreibung der Haut

Nicole Kelley (Tallahassee): ‘The one whom the Lord loves, he cures’

Alan Shapiro (Baltimore): Das Ewig-Weibische: Alcibiades' Effeminacy

Aileen Ajootian (Mississippi): Hermanphroditos ανασυρόμενος

Annetta Alexandridis (Cornell): Ζῷα: Bilder des Körpers zwischen Mensch und Tier

Jan Bremmer (Groningen/Köln): Hybrid Bodies in Greek Initiatory Ritual