Sexual Knowledge: Uses of the Past

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Sexual Knowledge: Uses of the Past

27th - 29th July 2009

This conference is part of the Sexual Knowledge, Sexual History project, run by Dr Kate Fisher & Dr Rebecca Langlands.

Why and how have people throughout history turned to the past in order to make sense of sexual experience?
What kinds of authority has the past exercised in popular and scholarly debates about sexual practices, identities, civilization and morality?
How do changing interpretations of past sexualities reflect historical shifts in the way sex is understood?

The aim of this interdisciplinary conference is to explore the way that discussions about sex and human nature over the centuries have both been informed by and helped to shape ideas about past cultures and the interpretation of their material and textual legacies.

The conference organisers invite 300 word abstracts for papers examining any aspect of the way that representations of sexual practices in the past have been invoked in debates, from any era including the present, about the nature of sexuality, religion, civilization or nature and also, in turn, how beliefs, prejudices, anxieties and fantasies frame the analysis of past sexual cultures and societies. We are interested in research exploring the reception in any subsequent era of material (whether textual or visual) such as the Khajuraho carvings, artefacts from Pompeii and Herculaneum, Greek pots, Anglo Saxon carvings, Ovid’s Ars Amatoria, Aretino’s sonnets, the so-called “Kama Sutra,” as well more abstract ideas about the sexual practices of the past such as Roman orgies or Persian harems.

Our aim is to create a new focus for international and interdisciplinary scholarship, by bringing together scholars from across the world and from across the full range of academic disciplines whose research interests intersect at this precise nexus, including  disciplines such as Anglo-Saxon studies, anthropology, archaeology, art history, classics and classical reception, Egyptology, history, medical history, museum studies and museology, Oriental studies, colonial history, ancient, medieval and modern languages, literary theory, cultural and media studies, film studies, philosophy, psychology, sociology and theology. 

Title and abstract to be received by 31 October 2008.

We are especially keen to attract postgraduates and early career scholars, for whom some limited funding may be available.
Dr Rebecca Langlands
Classics Department
University of Exeter
Amory Building, Rennes Drive
Exeter, EX4 4RJ
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