International EuroWeb Workshop ‘Making, Wearing, Displaying: Textiles and the Body in Pre-Modern Societies’

International EuroWeb Workshop

Making, Wearing, Displaying: Textiles and the Body in Pre-Modern Societies

Lisbon (PT), 3-5 May 2023

Organizing Committee:

Francisco B. Gomes (PT), Audrey Gouy (FR), Elsa Yvanez (DK), Magdalena Wozniak (PL), Catarina Costeira (PT) & Louise Quillien (FR)

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Recent archaeological and historical research has come to highlight a point that anthropological and ethnographic narratives have already long recognized: that bodies play a crucial role in the construction, display and negotiation of social, cultural, and individual identities. Theories of embodiment – a term that has become a true buzzword across the Social Sciences and the Humanities – have made substantial headway in these research fields, refocusing our understanding of past human experiences.

New interpretative frameworks have in fact arisen which depart from previous idealist frames of reference to ground those experiences on the materiality of the human body and the specificities of its engagement with the world around it. Embodied experience, practice and the role of the senses have come to the fore as cutting-edge topics of analysis, shedding new light on the role of the body as an identity locus and an arena for the negotiation of both social belonging and specific senses of the self.

Few components of the material world of past communities had a more intimate relationship with the body than textiles. Their very production reflects a set of defined gestures full of cultural meaning. Worn as garments, they protected and sheltered the body against the elements. As intricate elements, they also inspired people in the development of visual codes through which to project specific social and cultural messages, signalling either belonging or distinction.

They concealed and revealed, smoothed or enhanced, shaped and constrained, mapping onto the body a range of social and cultural meanings, norms and habits, which were at the core of individual socialization and collective culture-making. The way they were fashioned – for rest or movement, to enhance certain actions and bodily attributes and conceal others, to differentiate or homogenize – had tremendous cultural significance, shaping the socially conventional techniques of the body (sensu Mauss) individuals were expected to master. In this sense, they contributed to the creation of specific regimes of embodiment, while becoming a true social skin (sensu Turner) which acted as an interface between the self and society.

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The International EuroWeb Workshop Making, Wearing, Displaying: Textiles and the Body in Pre-Modern Societies aims at exploring diverse bodily experiences of textiles and their socio-cultural significance through an interdisciplinary lens. We wish to bring together historical, archaeological, anthropological and bioanthropological perspectives to explore common topics of interest and the shared theoretical and methodological tools that can be deployed in present and future research on the relationship between textiles and the body.

In doing so, and based on the newest research and latest discoveries, the workshop aims at covering this topic in as broad a sense as possible, and will therefore be structured along four major thematic axes:

1. Thinking about the Body: Theoretical Tools from the Social Sciences, the Humanities, and Beyond

2. The Making Body: Capturing the Gestures of Craftspeople

3. Wearing Textiles: Insights from Archaeology, Iconography and Written Sources

4. Textiles in Motion: The Dressed Body in Movement

For each of these thematic axes, a panel of invited speakers will discuss specific topics and lines of research, introducing participants to current theoretical and methodological concepts and debates, and offering thought-provoking case studies aimed at fuelling a collective debate and reflection. The programme will also include practical sessions and visits to Museum exhibits relating to the topic of the workshop, to be announced soon.

Call for Papers:

The Organizing Committee is keen to open this debate to other voices, topics, and case studies, and is therefore happy to invite proposals for short presentations (c. 15 minutes) related to the workshop’s thematic scope. Prospective participants can approach the topic of the relationship between textiles and the body in pre-modern societies from any perspective – historical, archaeological, anthropological, or other – but interdisciplinary approaches are especially welcome, as are presentations with a well-developed conceptual framework.

Proposals for short presentations at the workshop can be submitted by filling the form available here until the 31st of January 2023. The costs incurred by EuroWeb members selected to attend this workshop may be covered by the Action in accordance with COST reimbursement rules. Any questions about this call and the workshop in general can be sent by email to Francisco B. Gomes (franciscojbgomes@gmail.com).


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National Museum of Ethnology, Rua Luís Castanho de Almeida, Restelo, São Francisco Xavier, Belém, Lisbon, 1400-203, Portugal Map