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Between the natural and the supernatural, affected bodies during the 18th century

From May 31st tot June 3rd, 2022, the CHUV university hospital in Lausanne hosts an international conference on the question of the body, between the natural and the supernatural, in Europe during the 18th century.

It will review the epistemological argument that has been commonly adopted in historiography, according to which the Enlightenment and the critique of religion definitively separated the natural from the supernatural. The fields of study that are of particular interest to the organisers, and which are among the most pertinent in this area, are the history of medicine, the history of religion, philosophy and anthropology. We will examine this subject by focusing on the question of the body, and on the relations between the soul and the body. We will analyze bodies in situation, bodies that are affected, mistreated, troubled, deviant, possessed or in convulsion. These situations will allow us to renew the question of the relation between the natural and the supernatural.

Each conference participant will present original research based on a set of documentary sources dealing with one or several cases studies. They will put into perspective a body that is in a specific “affective” situation that organizes, seizes and represents it. Such an approach will allow us to ask this question from a different perspective, without reducing the analysis to the sole overarching perspective of a “history of ideas”. Several themes come to mind, such as the Convulsionaries, demonic possession, tarantism, vampirism, mesmerism, relics, lycanthropy, “the wild man”, signs of death, as well as the reception of these phenomena by the first alienists and the pathologization of religious phenomena.

The conference will be structured as follows: an inaugural conference will take place on May 31st 2022 at the Lausanne University Hospital (CHUV, Lausanne), the participants will then meet from June 1st to June 3rd 2022 at the Château Mercier (Sierre). Each participant will have one hour to present and analyze their case study and the archival sources, followed by 30 minutes of discussion. Conferences can be given in French or in English, however, a comprehension of French is expected. The plan is to publish the entirety of the conference papers.

If you are interested in participating in this conference, please submit a proposal by September 30th 2021 to the following e-mail address: ihm@chuv.ch, with the mention “corpsaffectés2022” in the subject line. The proposal (1 page maximum) should present the case study and the sources that will be analyzed, followed by a brief biography. The scientific committee will examine the submitted proposals and will reply soon thereafter. The participants’ expenses (travel, meals and accommodation) will be covered.