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Joint Workshop 2017: Material Culture and Textual Culture: Different Dynamics or Different Conceptualizations?

Workshop 2017

Workshop 2017

July 25 - 26, 2017 | Freie Universitaet Berlin, Seminarzentrum, Room L115, Habelschwerdter Allee 45, 14195 Berlin

From an etymological perspective, the term “culture” derives from the Latin verb “colere”, meaning: to engage in agricultural activities; and, indeed, what we commonly refer to as culture appears to have emerged relatively recently in the history of humankind. For a period of approximately 150,000 years, our ancestors lived a non-sedentary life. It was only when they developed techniques of cultivating land that “culture” in a modern sense developed: houses, cities, polities, religions, the fine arts, script systems, the systematic exploration of the world, and also early stages of what we would come to call science. Agricultural developments facilitated sustaining an ever-growing population, while actually needing less land to do so; at the same time, it necessitated forms of “organizing” this increasingly concentrated population—that is, of replacing the informal and spontaneous patterns of interaction typical of non-sedentary life with various “rules”, “norms”, “structures”, and “hierarchies”.
There is an important juncture in this “Culturocene” (a term one might devise to replace the somewhat misconceived “Anthropocene”, a word that has become popular in recent times): the development of written language decidedly divides this age into a “before” and an “after”. At the same time, the following consideration will also have to guide the workshop’s framework: as such, scripturality is not a replacement for orality, but rather a sort of supplement; for textual culture “adds” new items to a previous material culture, while the latter continues as the indispensable basis of a largely material existence.
Accordingly, this workshop’s main topic of discussion was the question whether symbolic “cultural” arrangements of matter (that is, texts) follow rationales of evolution that differ (substantially) from the evolutionary rationale(s) of predominantly non-symbolic, literally “material” arrangements of matter. One might hypothesize that the possibility to textually encode the instructions as to how one might produce various items of material culture drastically accelerated the latter’s use value. Regarding the influence of one form of culture on the other, one might raise the question as to whether there is a factual difference between items of material culture and such of textual culture in terms of (their respective) evolution; or whether it is only the current (and mostly unreflected) conceptualizations of these diverse items that might differ.

During the Joint Workshop renowned humanities scholars from the networks partner universities presented new research topics — while enjoying the possibility of discussing these in detail, and of further developing them conjointly. Particularly this workshop was to serve all participating scholars as an incubator for novel (research) initiatives and other forms of collaboration.


Tuesday, July 25

9.30-10.00 am

WELCOME AND INTRODUCTION Joachim Küpper (Freie Universitaet Berlin)

10.00-11.30 am

CHAIR Iulia Dondorici (Freie Universität Berlin)

LECTURE Katie Sutton (Australian National University): The Materiality of the Queer Archive: Embodying Trans*Identities in Early 20th-Century Sexological Photography

11.30-1.00 pm

CHAIR Saskia Schäfer (Freie Universität Berlin)
LECTURE Maxine Craig (University of California, Davis): Beauty Queens, Awkward Men and the History of a Smile: Studying the Material, Textual Body

1.00-2.00 pm


2.00-3.30 pm

CHAIR Natália da Silva Perez (Freie Universität Berlin)
LECTURE Elena Marasinova (Higher School of Economics, Moscow): Scaffold and Monastery in the Social Landscape of 18th Century: From the Death Penalty to the Penance

 3.30-4.00 pm


4.00-5.30 pm  

CHAIR Caio Yurgel (Freie Universitaet Berlin)
Caroline Turner (Australian National University): Cultural Change in Contemporary Asian Art in a Global Context

Wednesday, July 26

10.30-12.00 am

CHAIR Natacha Klein Käfer (Freie Universitaet Berlin)
LECTURE Ping-Chen Hsiung (The Chinese University of Hong Kong): Food and Aging in Late Imperial China: Material Provision and Textual Evidence in Comparison

12.00-1.30 pm


1.30-3.00 pm

CHAIR Alexander Schwan (Freie Universitaet Berlin)
LECTURE Martin Puchner (Harvard University): Literature from Mesopotamia to the Moon

3.00-3.30 pm


3.30-5.00 pm

CHAIR Lorenzo Bartalesi (École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris)
LECTURE Gaia Gubbini (Freie Universität Berlin): Troubadours in Time. The Manuscript Tradition as a Material ‘Trace’ of a Cultural History

5.00-5.45 pm

Concluding Discussion

Please find the program here.