The Research Unit Historical Cultural Sciences of the Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz will host a conference on bodies in battle in the middle ages in spring 2015. The conference shall offer insights to conceptions, imaginations and practices of violent exertions of bodies of medieval combatants. On the one hand the body will be analyzed as a cultural artifact, on the other as a lived body and a place of self-experience.
While the human body has gained much prominence in recent research in the humanities and cultural studies – especially in the field of gender studies – it’s use for military purposes for instance in medieval studies is to a large extent unexplored. Setting the dichotomy of having a body and being a body as a starting point, the conference will ask, what kind of relation medieval combatants had to their body. It has to be asked, in which ways warriors attributed meaning to their bodily integrity and the ability to control their bodies, as well as for the value their bodies had for them. What bodily experiences did fighters make through their lifetime and especially in violent conflicts? How did they interpret, speak or write about these experiences? To what extent ideal fighting bodies were trained and shaped both systematically and in a targeted way? Which techniques did they actually use to achieve and maintain bodily fitness and how did they treat bodies which were no longer capable of violent actions?
Ranging geographically from Byzantium in the East to Spain in the West and temporally from the fourth to the sixteenth century, the following questions will be treated in the course of the conference:
Which practices were used to make bodies fit for battle? What bodily techniques were taught and trained?
What were the conditions and objectives under which the own body was risked? How did fighters experience bodily dangers and how did they speak about them?
What kind of injuries and violations appeared? How did fighters experience bodily injuries and how did they communicate about? How did people treat injured bodies – individually and within the social context?
How did fighters experience the killing of (hostile) and the dying of (befriended, allied, kindred) combatants? How did they speak and write about it?
How did a fighter’s approach to and the dealing with the own mortality differ from the concepts of non-fighters? How did they deal with their fear of death? How were dead fighters treated?
The conference is funded by the Research Unit Historical Cultural Sciences of the Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz.
Guests are welcome. Please register via E-Mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org.