Image as Embodiment: Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives

Sainsbury Reseach Unit for the Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas
University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK
Friday 9 November to Saturday 10 November 2007
Statue of Kamehameha, at Kapaʻau, North Kohala. His flesh like paint, originally put on by the local community, transforms the original bronze into an embodiment of the Hawai’ian King.
Conceiving images in their widest sense, this symposium asks how and what do different material forms embody in the world? While diverse types of images (‘artworks’, devotional objects, photographs, monuments, etc.) possess different ontological statuses, they are united by the fact that
they are each embodiments of various sets of social relations, practices, desires and ideologies. We invite scholars working within anthropology, archaeology and art history to explore issues implicated in the notion of images as embodiments. Whether dealing with the miniature or the monumental, the symposium seeks to consider embodiment as a process (cyclical or terminal) situated in time and space. Given the socially and culturally infused nature of our material world, the strategies of
embodiment are significant. They are affective decisions that impact the way images are engaged with, and how images themselves act upon us, channelling behaviour in both the short and long-term. It is anticipated that the following questions and issues, amongst others, will be
considered at this symposium:
* Examining embodiment as process we are interested in considering what intangible qualities are substantiated and transformed when images are wrapped, carved, bound, modified and or collected?
* Once made what is it that images do?
* What is released and made possible through the destruction, dissolution and decay of an image?
* What are the culturally specific aspects of these intentions and qualities of embodiment?
* What is the significance of different materials and forms in the composition of images?
* What are the social effects of the different qualities of surfaces (e.g., burnishing versus incision in pottery)?
* What perspectives on the relationship between persons and things emerge when taking these aspects of images as processes of embodiment?
* How do different disciplines help in our understanding of embodiment?
Confirmed speakers for the symposium include:
Suzanne Preston Blier (Harvard University, Cambridge, USA)
Stephen Hugh-Jones (University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK)
Christian Kaufmann (Basel, Switzerland)
Pierre Lemonnier (CNRS, Marseille, France)
Howard Morphy (Australia National University, Canberra, Australia)
Ruth Phillips (Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada)
Allen F. Roberts (University of California, Los Angeles, USA)
Mike Rowlands (University College, London, UK)
Ann-Christine Taylor (Musée du Quai Branly, Paris, France)

The aim of this symposium is to develop a series of ongoing topical workshops between academic disciplines and regional specialisations that focus on the sensual matter of our material world. It will be an excellent opportunity for researchers, students, and professionals from all disciplines to network and to identify opportunities for new research projects, and collaborations. This symposium is a part of a new initiative by the Sainsbury Research Unit and is part of the new Groupement De
Recherche International (GDRI) entitled ‘Anthropology and History of the Arts’ hosted at the Musée du Quai Branly. The symposium will take place adjacent to the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, which displays the renowned Sainsbury Collection of art from many different regions of the world.
Registration is now under way and further details about the symposium’s costs, and accommodation can be found on our website.
Conference website:
Conference email: or
Deadline for registration: 15 October 2007
The symposium is being organised by a committee consisting of the following staff of the SRU: Dr Joshua A. Bell (Convener), Dr Steven Hooper, Professor John Mack, Dr George Lau, Mrs Lynne Humphreys (Administrator).

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