The Ph.D. Program in History

at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York

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Pearl Kibre Medieval Study (PKMS) Invites Submissions for Their 2022 Conference “Bodies and Borders”

What: Pearl Kibre Medieval Study 17th Annual Conference
Where: Online, hosted through The Graduate Center, CUNY
When: May 5 2023

Abstract Deadline: January 31 2023


Jeffery Jerome Cohen argues in his introduction to Medieval Identity Machines that these systems of meaning making pull the “human outside of itself, breaking its self-contained organization to disaggregate the body into pieces more intimate with stars and planets than with each other” with a “pancosmic fluidity that mingles the human, animal, vegetal, and inorganic” (xvi). Recognizable medieval images like the zodiac man, the knight riding his horse, and the lovesick lovers are all identity machines, disrupting the stable borders of the body and giving medieval people the language and the models to imagine their bodies as extending beyond their physical form alone. The barber surgeon with his scalpel; the farrier and his horses; the woman in labor wrapped in a prayer scroll to St. Margaret – all of these people learned that their bodies were not limited by the boundary of their skin. What happens to the category of “the human” when these medieval systems of meaning-making decentralize the anthropocene and disrupt definitions of bodily integrity?

This conference is interested in exploring the limits, borders, and boundaries of the medieval body, broadly understood as both the physical body and larger structural understandings of medieval societies as bodies that rely on their component parts to survive. The concept of a “body” itself in a medieval context is a flexible one, encompassing not only an individual’s body but metaphors for social concepts and institutions, in which every member of society is associated with part of a larger whole. Concepts like the social body, the body of the nation, and the king’s two bodies are both comprehensive and limited, encompassing entire societies but also frequently excluding those outside their boundaries. PKMS is interested in projects that explore these wider systems as well as the more granular system of natural bodies, both in their normal operations and in the ways they break down, confuse, and conflict.

Papers might address the following topics:
– Boundaries and limits of the human body
– Symbolic categories of “bodies”, both human and non-human
– Posthumanism, bestiaries, and the borders of the anthropocene
– Speculative fictions, both premodern (history plays, medieval political imaginaries) and modern (cyberpunk, afrofuturism, etc.) that imagine a social body
– Disability and prosthesis
– The body as imagined in medievalism vs. the medieval conception of the body
– Medical humanities and the history of medieval emotions (the borders of the body/mind)

If you are interested in submitting a paper, please fill out this form.