“Emotions: Movemement, Cultural Contact and Exchange, 1100-1800” (Freie Universität Berlin, June 30- July 2 2016)

Here’s an upcoming conference that should appeal to readers of the Toynbee Prize Foundation’s Global History blog. From June 30 to July 2, 2016, the Freie Universität Berlin and the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions will be hosting a conference devoted to the history of emotions focusing on cross-cultural movement, exchange, contact and changing connections titled “Emotions: Movemement, Cultural Contact and Exchange, 1100-1800.” A description of the conference  follows:

Emotions: Movement, Cultural Contact and Exchange, 1100-1800 is an international conference jointly sponsored by the Freie Universität Berlin and the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions, Europe 1100-1800, with the further involvement of scholars from The Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin. It will draw on a broad range of disciplinary and cross-disciplinary expertise in addressing the history of emotions in relation to cross-cultural movement, exchange, contact and changing connections in the later medieval and early modern periods. The conference thus brings together two major areas in contemporary Humanities: the study of how emotions were understood, expressed and performed in pre-modern contexts, both by individuals and within larger groups and communities; and the study of pre-modern cultural movements, contacts, exchanges and understandings, within Europe and between non-Europeans and Europeans.

The period 1100-1800 saw a vast expansion of cultural movement through travel and exploration, migration, mercantile and missionary activity, and colonial ventures. On pilgrimage routes to slave routes, European culture was on the move and opened up to incomers, bringing people, goods and aesthetic objects from different backgrounds into close contact, often for the first time. Individuals and societies had unprecedented opportunities for new forms of cultural encounter and conflict. One major question for the conference to consider is finding the appropriate theory and methodology that will account for the place of emotions in this varied history.

Such cross-cultural encounters took place within a context of beliefs – popular, religious and scientific – that were propagated in literary, historiographical and visual sources, with a heritage reaching back to the classical period, and with a long religious tradition. One strand of the conference will deal with the changing literary and visual cultures that mediated European understandings of African, Mediterranean and Asian peoples, practices and environments, and which reveal the image of Europe and Europeans in other regions. Literary works (travel narratives, histories, epics and romances, hagiography), theatrical performances, visual artefacts and musical compositions were highly important in forming the emotional character of cross-cultural contacts, and the nature of literary, visual and performance culture. They responded to new cultural influences and created the emotional habits and practices through which cultural understandings were received and interpreted.

The conference will also explore the role emotions played in shaping early modern and late colonial encounters between indigenous peoples and Europeans. This might include the emotions embedded in missionary work and conversion, as viewed from both sides of these transactions, and in European settlements built on slavery. Evidence is provided by the accounts of participants, in the records of European and colonial government sponsoring and regulating their populations, in personal correspondence, and also in the associated visual and material record, including maps and ethnographic illustrations, propaganda and other responses by indigenous subjects.

Tracing emotional cultural movements also invites consideration of the variety of spaces – ships, villages, churches, courts, rituals and dreams – in which cultural movements and contacts occurred, and emotive responses to environmental features. This might also include the emotional responses of non-Europeans who found themselves in European environments.

More generally, the conference will consider the affective strategies of early modern Europeans in the acquisition, exchange and display of colonial objects. What emotional transformations did objects undergo in their passage across Europe and between European and other societies? What was the role of emotions in the formation of early ethnographic texts and collections, and in the museum culture of early modern Europe?

This last question leads to the issue of retrospective emotions, as observers in modernity look back on the long history of cross-cultural contact and write its course. How have their desires and emotional projections influenced understanding and reception?

Emotions: Movement, Cultural Contact and Exchange, 1100-1800 will extend over two-and-a-half days, including three plenary sessions by distinguished invited speakers, several Round Table discussion groups, and numerous panels consisting of three 20 minute papers plus discussion. One or more refereed publications of essays based on proceedings are expected. 

If this sounds interesting, then please see registration information and full program via this website!

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