Middle East Studies

Rethinking the Body: Humanity and Its Discontents in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages

event poster

Saturday, November 2, 2019

9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

85 Waterman St. (Room 130)
Providence, RI 02912

The body is a contested battleground of human experience. Human bodies provide a locus for the expression and distribution of power; they are messy, imperfect, and uncontrollable; they change over time; they are subject to weaknesses, illnesses, and suffering. Yet at the same time bodies provide a touchstone for culturally-contingent ideals of beauty and sexuality; they are central to the emotions and to sensate experience; they are crucially but enigmatically linked to notions of mind, soul, and spirit. This year, participants in the New England Medieval Conference will consider how the human body (broadly conceived) was imagined, depicted, and treated in life and death in western Europe, Byzantium, the Islamic world, East Africa, and China from late antiquity to the high middle ages. Speakers will address issues of race, disability, and identity formation; erotic imagery and theories of vision; the embodied dynamics of artistic production; psychology and sensate experience; migration, connectivity, and ideas of social homogeneity and hybridity; the science of bodies, spirits, and spiritual bodies; the experience of the afterlife; and intersections between religion and the medicine of the body.

Register by October 18, 2019!

More Information

Partner Events


Jacqueline Jung (Yale University), “The Gothic Body: Haptic Mimesis and the Formation of Presence in Thirteenth-Century Sculpture


Amy Appleford (Boston University), “The Broken-Backed Man: Figures of Disability in The Book of Margery Kempe
Susan Holman (Valparaiso University), “Bodies of Water: Hydration and Communal Wellness in Monastic Public Health
Jonathan Hsy (George Washington University), “Disruptive Spectacles: Disability, Color, Thomas Hoccleve’s Eyes
Chapurukha Kusimba (American University): “Debating Swahili Identities: What Have We Learned from Recent Archaeogenetic and Skeletal Biological Research?
Vasileios Marinis (Yale University), “Body in Paradise: Salvation by Chrismation and Investiture in Athon. Dionysiou MS 65
Jeffrey Moser (Brown University), “The Modeled Body in Medieval Chinese Calligraphy
Ahmed Ragab (Harvard University)
Kristina L. Richardson (CUNY – Queens College), “Enemy Territory: Disability as Polemic in Arabic Political Writings, 8th-10th centuries
Gregory A. Smith (Central Michigan University), “Sense, Sensibility, and Spiritual Bodies, or, What Was It Like to Be Dead in Late Antiquity?
Alicia Walker (Bryn Mawr College), “Icons of Aphrodite: The Erotic Body in Byzantium and How (Not) to Look at It