One day Workshop: Demons in the Body (July 2014: Oxford, United Kingdom)

full name / name of organization: 
Dr Rob Fisher, Inter-disciplinary.Net

One day Workshop: Demons in the Body

Monday 28th July 2014
Mansfield College, Oxford, United Kingdom

Call for Participation:
This workshop intends to bring people interested in the meaning and purpose of traditional beliefs in demons and vampires in Southeast Europe together to share ideas and to try to draw the line between "our part of Europe" and "their part of Europe". Further it will also explore the ways in which these ideas, both positively and negatively, can be seen to inform many contemporary narratives of disease, the supernatural and the undead. In particular, the day will aim to explore the relationship between illness, disease, demons, vampires and the body. It will seek to bring together practitioners and academics to look at alternative concepts of illness, especially to discuss the idea of 'infection' with a focus on Southeast European Folk belief and the theories of Paracelsus about illness-bringing demons, to have a clear examination of the concept of demons as figurations of illness and assess the ways of dealing with them / healing the ill ones. The over-arching purpose of the day is to attempt to get a new look on the vampire and his role in Southeast European folklore and the ways in which the past remains as an 'undead' presence in the modern world.

Workshop I: Demonic Bodies: Illness and Disease in Southeast European Folk Belief:

Opening proposal of Areas to be discussed lead by Peter Kreuter:

The idea of disease as something brought into the human body from external sources – and demons and vampires in particular – was and partially still is at the heart of Southeastern European folk belief. But this concept is not only located in the Balkans, neither is it only a concept of the popular belief. This concept is typified in the work of Theophrastus Bombast von Hohenheim (1493-1541), better known as Sobriquet Paracelsus, who rejected the medicine of the ancestors as embodied in Hippokrates and Epikur and Galen as well as the knowledge found in the main books of the day, and started to create his own medical theories about illness and health. One of his concepts was that of disease as something brought into the human body from the outside by the use of demons and spirits. Those tiny demons entered the human bodies and caused by their existence or by their negative attitudes all kind of illness. A variation of that belief was also widespread across Bulgaria and Romania: people believe also in the negative effect of demons. The difference here is that each demon brings his typical disease. They do not necessarily enter the body but their closeness to human beings makes people getting sick or even die.
The vampire is also a kind of demon – a dead person unable to get over in the other world (call it paradise, call it by any other name). In contrary to the image of the Dracula-like vampire we know in the Western literary tradition, the vampire of the Balkans does not suck blood, but makes people die by his presence in the room or near the bed a person lies in.
So demons can be seen as the key to understanding beliefs about illness and disease – demons and demonic figures in South-eastern Europe and their relationship to either mankind or illness. This workshop will follow the principles and aims of Inter-Disciplinary.Net (IDN). IDN was set up to bring academics and practitioners together to discuss research, ideas, good practice and best practice: to help individuals to think critically and think with an inter-disciplinary lens.

-The concept of illness and disease in the theories of Paracelsus
-Demons of illness in Southeast European folkloric belief
-The vampire of the Balkans
-The discussion about the vampire in 18th century enlightened literature
-Demons and vampires today in South-eastern Europe

To be followed by an open discussion of the topics in a round-table situation.
For this purpose, a couple of texts (in English) will be provided in advance to audience. At the end, a deeper understanding for the development of the idea of illness coming from outside shall be created as well as some deep insights in how rural communities deal with an attack from the outside, may it be a disease, may it be someone who functions like a disease.

Workshop II: Plague or Panacea: Vampires and Disease on Film from Nosferatu to Twilight…and Beyond:

Opening proposal of areas to be discussed lead by Simon Bacon:

From the vampires first appearance on film it has been connected with the ideas of blood, contagion and disease. Yet whilst this carries on much of the ideological intent of earlier periods, signifying otherness or spiritual and racial impurity, many narratives can be seen to reverse this idea, showing the vampire to either a resource for human longevity or an example of a post-human future. Through a consideration of key films, some well known and others not so, this workshop will examine many of the conflicting views held about the vampire and its place in relation to human health and vitality. Further it will also consider the ways in which earlier folkloric views, and what Judith Halberstam calls their "monstrous. or monsterizing, technologies" can be seen to operate within these more contemporary texts and what they might say about 21st century western culture. As such the workshop will be divided in to two parts exploring the positive and negative views of the vampire. In the first part, films, such as Nosferatu (1922), Atom Age Vampire (1960), Ganga & Hess (1973), The Hunger (1983) Trouble Everyday (2001) and Twilight (2008) utilise the idea of the vampire as being the manifestation of something unclean, excessive and other, and consequently contagious. In the other section, movies and series such as Son of Dracula (1943), Ultraviolet (2006), Perfect Creature (2006), Vampire Diaries (2009-present) and Let Me In (2010) examples vampirism as being a "disease" that produces autonomy and agency and a form of human becoming.

To be followed by an open discussion of the topics in a round-table situation.
For this discussion four or five films will be discussed in depth to explore the ways in which they carry the signifiers and meaning of previous incarnations of the undead into the present and the ways in which, contemporary versions might reinforce or subvert the processes of "monsterization".

Medical Staff interested in the subject
Historians with a specialisation in History of Medicine or Ethics of Medicine
Media Studies
Popculture and film enthusiasts

Places on this workshop are capped so we invite expressions of interest for people thinking of attending and for them to send a statement of their interest and experience/expertise to the organising chairs by Friday 4th July 2014:

Peter Mario Kreuter:
Simon Bacon:
Rob Fisher:

The day will begin with registration between 9.00am and 10.00am Monday 28th July 2014 and will be followed by a series of presentation sessions and workshops. Refreshments and a 2 course sit-down lunch will be provided. After the final workshop and summation of the days discussions and the event will end with a wine reception.

Registration Fee: £85. This Includes:
-conference registration fee
-discounted rate off any Inter-Disciplinary Press or Fisher Imprints publications
-access to the conference project initiative support materials
-morning coffee break with coffee, tea, fruit juice, fresh fruits, cakes
-2 course waiter served lunch
-afternoon coffee break with coffee, tea, fruit juice, fresh fruits, cakes
-Wine Reception

Workshop Leaders:
Peter Mario Kreuter, Institute for East and Southeast European Studies (Regensburg) Germany
Simon Bacon, Independent Researcher

Organising Committee:
Rob Fisher: Inter-Disciplinary.Net

Selected works will also be published in a special issue of the Monsters and the Monstrous Journal in 2015. Details of the journal can be found here:

For further details of the workshop, please visit:

Please note: Inter-Disciplinary.Net is a not-for-profit network and we are not in a position to be able to assist with conference travel or subsistence.