Measuring the World Against the Body: Materialities and Meanings of Magnification and Miniaturization in Religious Communication in Antiquity and Modernity
At the end of February (24-26 Feb. 2021), four colleagues from ACE (Bruce Gibson, Georgia Petridou, Anthony Sinclair, and Alexei Zadorozhny) had the pleasure of collaborating with leading research experts from the Universities of Erfurt (Germany), Graz (Austria), and Aarhus (Denmark; the UrbNet project) at an international 3-day interdisciplinary conference entitled ‘Measuring the World against the Body: Materialities and Meanings of Magnification and Miniaturization in Religious Communication in Antiquity and Modernity’
The conference, which was originally planned to take place in Eisenach in Germany but was moved online to conform with Covid-19-related regulations, took place within the research framework of the International Graduate School ‘Resonant Self–World Relations in Ancient and Modern Socio-Religious Practices’ at the Universities of Erfurt and Graz, and was generously funded by the DFG and FWF. The event brought together experts from Archaeology, Classics, History of Art, History of Religions, Sociology, and Theology to engage closely with wider theoretical issues and case-studies (text-based and material alike) pertaining to materiality and monumentality, their meanings, and their wider socio-cultural ramifications. The majority of the papers focused primarily on the Mediterranean basin, with rich comparanda from the Ancient Near East and Neolithic Europe.
The conference profited a great deal from an online pre-conference meeting at the end of January (27 Jan. 2021), which aimed at introducing the participants to each other and sharpening the conference’s methodological focus. Taking their cue from Hartmut Rosa’s new sociological theory of resonant self-world relations and its particular emphasis on our bodily relationships, both the pre-conference and the actual conference engaged closely, and from a number of different disciplinary angles, with the agents and forces that drive phenomena of magnification and miniaturisation in antiquity and modernity. Whether life-sized, oversized, or undersized, the human body and its parts and dimensions impacts on the ways in which we conceive of, interact with, and relate to nature, as well as the ways in which we construct and re-construct the man-made environment.
The organisers of the two events (Elisabeth Begemann, Diana Pavel, Georgia Petridou, Rubina Raja, Katharina Rieger, Jörg Rüpke) will co-edit a volume based on the proceedings of the conference, which will be published with Brepols in the Contextualizing the Sacred series. Above all, we hope that this event will be just the first of many opportunities for new international research collaborations for staff in ACE.
Getting together with colleagues from all over the world to discuss bodily dynamics, materiality and monumentality felt simply exhilarating! Covid-19 may have prevented us from seeing each other in person but could not stop us from sharing our ideas and moving forward with our research collaborations.
Dr Georgia Petridou, Senior Lecturer in Ancient Greek History