CfP: "Embodied Acts and American Photographs" (6/30/2022 - 7/2/2022)

deadline for submissions: 
August 23, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
Johanna Hartmann / Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany

Confirmed Keynote Speakers:

Stefanie Diekmann (Universität Hildesheim)

Steven Hoelscher (UT Austin)

Kerstin Schmidt (KU Eichstätt)


“Embodied Acts and American Photographs” (June 30 – July 2, 2022)

International Conference (Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany)


In the introduction to her essay collection Photography at the Dock, Abigail Solomon-Godeau claims that “[t]he history of photography is not the history of remarkable men, much less a succession of remarkable pictures, but the history of photographic uses” (xxiv, emphasis added). These uses encompass the practices of and processes involved in the production of, posing and performing for, or engaging with photographs – all of which – and this is the basic assumption of this conference – have to be conceived of as embodied processes. Photographs are thus understood as texts where embodied acts and mediality interact in complex ways.

Scholars in various fields such as performance studies, cognitive cultural studies, or enactivism have highlighted the importance of conceptualizing human existence as intricately tied to our material corporeality. According to Zahavi, embodiment is central for our understanding of “the relationship to ourselves, the world, and others,” shaping central dimensions of being in the world like “self-consciousness, intentionality, and intersubjectivity” (Zahavi, Phänomenologie 64, m.t.), dimensions which are all vital to our engagement with, our understanding of, and the potential socio-political impact of photographs. This is of particular relevance in a cultural and media ecology as saturated with photographic images as the U.S. where photographs are a central medium of cultural – individual and collective – meaning-making processes. Coco Fusco, for instance, claims that “[e]nvisioning and exhibiting the American self has been a photographic venture since the inception of the medium. It is an ongoing social, cultural, and political project” (Coco Fusco “Racial Time”), determining our sense of the past, the present, and the future.

It is the aim of this conference to bring together scholars who examine the photographic uses of 20th and 21st century American photographs as exhibiting, enabling, or the result of embodied acts and practices and explore how these photographs have been fundamental for the construction and negotiation of American identities, politics, and culture. As such, this project combines the aim of theoretically reflecting on photography as situated in the tensional field between embodied acts and practices and their mediatization with the aim of analyzing American photographs (or groups of photographs) of the 20th and 21st century from this theoretical angle.

This interdisciplinary and international conference is based on the belief in the importance of intellectual exchange during the conference. Panel sessions will be separated into two parts: first, presentations by individual speakers (3 talks of 15 minutes each) and, second, an in-depth discussion (45 mins). Speakers are therefore asked to prepare short papers (15 minutes) that serve as a basis for discussions.

This conference welcomes the actual presence of the speakers. However, depending on the pandemic-related situation next June, the conference format might be turned into a hybrid or fully digital format.


Scholars who wish to present a paper are asked to submit an abstract of 300 words and a short biographical note including their institutional affiliation to at some point before August 23, 2021. The conference language is English. A selection of papers will appear in a collected volume.


Submissions (either in the form of individual talks or whole panels) can be on – but need not be confined to – the following aspects and topics:

  • Embodiment and the (technological) practices involved in the production of photographs (practices of framing, perspectivization, or manipulation)
  • American photographs and racial embodiment
  • The staging/representation of embodiment and embodied practices across photographic genres (e.g., photographic (self-)portraits, medical photography, performance/theater photography etc.)
  • Ethical implications of embodied acts in photographs
  • Embodied practices and non-figurative photographs (e.g., landscape or documentary photography)
  • Embodied practices and the (im)materiality of photographs (virtual/digital photographs and photographs as material and physical objects)
  • Embodied “practices of looking,” performativity (Sturken and Cartwright), and the embodied gaze, synesthetic potentials, and affect
  • Impaired embodiment and disability
  • Embodiment, absence and presence, visibility and invisibility
  • The embodiment of institutionalized practices (selecting, archiving, curating etc.) in archives, museums, galleries etc.
  • Embodiment, iconic images, and the cultural memory of/in photography
  • Embodied cognition and photography in American literature