"The Circle of Life" – Birth, Dying, and the Liminality of Life since the Nineteenth Century

"The Circle of Life" – Birth, Dying, and the Liminality of Life since the Nineteenth Century

German Historical Institute Warsaw; Organization: Michael Zok (Warsaw) / Florian Greiner (Heidelberg)
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In Präsenz
Vom - Bis
01.09.2022 - 02.09.2022
Florian Greiner, Stiftung Reichspräsident-Friedrich-Ebert-Gedenkstätte Heidelberg

The conference explores how modern, especially pluralist, societies cope with the liminal stages at the beginning and end of human life. In particular, we would like to analyse concepts of liminality and rites of passage in a historical perspective.

"The Circle of Life" – Birth, Dying, and the Liminality of Life since the Nineteenth Century

Birth and dying as existential transitions in human life have a profound significance for every society. Surprisingly, in historical research they are usually considered in isolation. However, anthropologists and ethnologists have been interpreting them as entangled practices for a long time, as envisioned in the concept of liminality and rites of passage by Arnold van Gennep and Victor Turner. In observing that cultures have different approaches to these phenomena, they pointed out that their functions depended on the specifics of a given society and its cultural beliefs and performances.

In modern societies, processes of secularisation, modernisation, scientification, and rationalisation have had a major impact on (religious) systems of beliefs as well as everyday life. Therefore, these processes also influenced the meaning of liminality and rites of passage that are subjects to public discourses, political decisions, and legal requirements.


1 September 2022

16.30 – 16.40 Welcome by Prof. Dr. Miloš Řezník (Warsaw)

16.40 – 17.00 Michael Zok (Warsaw): Introduction: Birth and Dying. Liminal Stages from Different Perspectives

17.00 – 18.15 Panel I: In Utero

Wiebke Lisner (Hanover): “Halted Blood” and Unborn Children during the Nazi “War on Births”. Perceptions of Pregnancy and Abortion in Occupied Poland between Racial Segregation and Biopolitics

Marina Banitou (University of Thessaly): Ceauşescu’s Abortion Ban: Implications and Inferno Orphanages (1966-1989)

18.15 – 19.45 Warsaw Old Town Tour

19.45 Dinner

2 September 2022

9.30 – 11.15 Panel II: Constructing End-of-Life

Thorsten Benkel (Passau): The Imposition of Intermediate States. Irritations of Knowledge and the Liminality of the Dead Body

Paula Muhr (Karlsruhe): Visualising the Dying Human Brain: Visibility versus Interpretability of the Neural Activity in the Liminal Period Preceding Death

Julia Dornhöfer (Freiburg): Planning your End: Fallacies of Autonomy around Patient Wills in Everyday Life

15 minutes break

11.30 – 13.15 Panel III: Dying with Dignity

Boopathi P (Central University of Tamil Nadu): Between Life and Death: the Story of Aruna Shanbaug and Euthanasia Debate in India

Eric Franklin (Lucerne): From Honour to Dignity – Changing Notions in the Swiss Suicide Assistance Movement

Anna Bauer (Munich): Neo-modern Constellations of Dying – ›Holistic‹ Palliative Care as Organized Polyphony

13.15 – 14.00 Lunch

14.00 – 14.15 Florian Greiner (Heidelberg): Epilogue: Liminality and the Circle of Life in Modern Societies

14.15 – 15.00 Final Discussion