The body in uncertain times: emancipations, transformations and debarments
Alexia Liakounakou (UCL)
Natalia Koutsougera (Panteion University)
This panel explores bodies-in-crisis, and the ramifications of uncertain conditions on gendered bodies, in both their negative and positive manifestations: from oppression, discipline, and dispossession, to creating social mobilisation, transformation, care, and emancipation.
We are now embodying a new ‘crisis normal’. This is perceived as a new order, where an embodied sense of uncertainty lives inside the subject, becoming a kind of second nature. During tis time, several social transformations have occurred. On the one hand the widespread embracing of feminism and technology have played a significant role in the promotion of bodily emancipations, while, on the other, the control over the body, through new forms of surveillance and biopower, have taken new and alarming dimensions.
We see the body becoming a central stage for the playing out of these new realities. In this panel, we would like to explore how individuals tame, liberate, control or otherwise use the body in situations of rupture, and how precarious situations may impact the sense of gendered self, body image and political subjectivities. From “self-tracking” (Lupton 2014), fitness, fashion, dieting, fasting and health disciplining, to the widespread self-care and “wellness” culture which is becoming ‘domesticated’ (Cook and Dwyer, 2017), individuals today are increasingly understood to exert great control over their bodies. These practices, which aim at the ‘best possible achievement’, also offer a sense of stability and security. However, Angela McRobbie (2015) warns against the “invidious illusion of control” (2015:16), and Lauren Berlant (2011) notes how affective states or objects can create unconscious desire. We therefore wish to engage in a wide discussion about how the body transcends and moves through these – often dangerous, and other times exhilarating – new equilibria.
The 16th international SIEF congress will take place between the 7th and the 10th of June 2023 in Brno, the second largest city of the Czech Republic, the country, where SIEF forerunner Commission internationale de l’art populaire has been founded. After almost 100 years SIEF returns to Central Europe, a region where many uncertainties worth of ethnological, folklore and related research arises and overlaps for centuries.
In the current times of various threats, vivid and vibrant auspices of the Masaryk University in Brno will provide a unique opportunity to demonstrate that inspiration for our work can flow in various directions and not only along the current hegemonic axes, to search for connections and bridges rather than divisions and to contribute to a balanced scholarly collaboration across established borders of any kind.
This is an intention of three local partners which have agreed on a joint initiative to host the congress: the Institute of Ethnology of the Czech Academy of Sciences, the Department of European Ethnology of the Faculty of Arts of Masaryk University and the National Institute of Folk Culture.
SIEF2023 congress is held under the auspices of:
President of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic
Rector of Masaryk University
Minister of Culture of the Czech Republic