Sensible Flesh: Rethinking the Body in the 21st Century - Seminar group 17th Oct, 14th Nov, and 12th Dec 2011; London

full name / name of organization: 
Zoe Roth/Fusako Innami, Comparative Literature Department, King's College London

Keynote speaker: Dr. Lisa Blackman (Goldsmiths University), 17th October

'I cannot move without it. I cannot leave it there where it is, so that I, myself, may go elsewhere. I can go to the other end of the world; I can hide in the morning under the covers, make myself as small as possible. I can even let myself melt under the sun at the beach – it will always be there. Where I am. It is here, irreparably; it is never elsewhere. My body' – Michel Foucault

How do you talk about the body? This question implies that the body is fixed, stable and unchanging; that it is an object we speak about rather than a subject that speaks for itself. Foucault's quote jolts us out of this apparently natural way of thinking about the body, underlining how we cannot separate subjectivity, identity and consciousness from the body.

While cultures have always engaged in embodied practices and rituals like body modification, mortification of the flesh and bodily purification, the last hundred years have seen rapid scientific and technological advancements, from CAT scans to gene therapy, that open our bodies to increasingly minute and detailed levels of visibility, knowledge and intervention. Increasingly, complex intersections of politics, globalisation and migration expose both the individual and collective material body to violence, exclusion and extermination, and discourses surrounding embodied aspects of race, gender and sexuality have a direct influence on how subjects live their lives. Yet, despite the body's importance in mediating reality, it is still often regarded as inert and unthinking, separated and secondary to the mind.

Alongside these changes, disciplines like sociology, gender studies, philosophy and anthropology have taken a growing interest in these political, scientific, cultural, and social bodily influences. Many researches have begun to analyse the body as an affective and indeterminate process, rather than a fixed and static object, gradually shifting the debate from asking, what is a body, to what can a body do? This 'corporeal turn' recognises the body as a privileged site of study and an active part of how we make sense of the world, challenging some of the most fundamental notions of what it means to be a corporeal subject. The notions of embodiment, affect and the lived body are just some of the terms that have emerged from this paradigmatic shift.

In the spirit of encouraging interdisciplinary debates and discussions of the body and embodiment, we invite proposals (300 words) from postgraduate students, post-doctorate scholars and early-career academics for twenty-minutes papers on the following topics (although the list is not exhaustive):

- Cognitive science and bodily consciousness
- The body and the senses
- The body and ecology
- Actor Network Theory
- Sociology of the body
- Science, technology and the body
- The body and affective power
- Phenomenological investigations of the body
- The psychoanalytic object, the body and subjectivity
- Ethics and embodied subjects
- Re-territorializing space and city
- Cross-cultural transmission/translation through the body
- Temporalities created through body movement/acoustic rhythm
- Gender performativity
- Labour, objects and the body
- Visuality and the body
- Technology and new formations of the body
- Sexuality and embodied experience
- New horizons of the body
- The body, movement and creative processes
- Language, text and embodiment
- Race and lived experienced

Deadline for abstract submission: 10 October 2011

Notes to applicants: We plan to have two twenty-minute presentations for each seminar, starting with an introductory lecture by Dr. Lisa Blackman on the 17th October 2011, with subsequent seminars scheduled for 14/11/2011, 12/12/2011, and three more dates in 2012. Please indicate in your email which dates you will be able to present.

Submission guidelines: Please send 300 world proposals, including your full name, academic affiliation, contact details and dates you are available to

Kindly supported by The Graduate School and the Comparative Literature Department, King's College London. Funded by The Roberts Fund.