HomeBodies and representations: a "liaison dangereuse"?

HomeBodies and representations: a "liaison dangereuse"?

Bodies and representations: a "liaison dangereuse"?

Corps et représentations : une liaison dangereuse ?

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Published on Thursday, December 20, 2012


Le corps est devenu un objet central de la recherche en sciences humaines : l'histoire de l'art, la philosophie, la sociologie, l'histoire et la littérature s'en sont emparées et interrogent deux corps bien différents. Le premier est un corps médiatisé par un système de représentation, un corps sémiotique. C'est ce corps-là que l'on retrouve dans les œuvres d'art mais aussi dans des sources non artistiques – comptes rendus de procès, correspondance privée etc. – qui ont recours à un système d'écriture. Le second corps serait le corps réel, le référent du système d'écriture, ou le corps vécu par des individus à un moment donné de l'histoire. C'est ce corps-là qui se révèle le plus difficile à reconstruire, au point que depuis l’évolution de l’histoire des mentalités vers une histoire des représentations, il est couramment admis que l’étude d’un objet ne peut être qu'une étude de ses représentations. Cela s’applique particulièrement à l’étude du corps dont seules les représentations semblent accessibles au chercheur en sciences humaines.


Call for papers : Body and representations: a dangerous liaison?


Research in human sciences has progressively focused on the body: art history, philosophy, sociology, history and literature has seized on it, examining it from two distinct perspectives. There are in fact two bodies. The first we can reach through systems of representation, art, of course, but also non-artistic sources: it relies on writing (lawsuits, private correspondence, etc.). This system of representation can be analysed through the Panofsky's[6] concept of symbolic form.

The second body, on the other hand, is the real one, the writing system’s referent, the live body experienced by individuals as their own historically determined one. It is this one which is the most difficult to reconstruct. Indeed, the evolution of cultural and intellectual studies has limited the analysis of this body to the history of its representations alone[7]. This is particularly true for studies of the human body, for researchers - especially as far as the human sciences are concerned - seem only to have access to representations.

It is in the passage from the represented body to its referent (and vice-versa) that the danger of interpretation lies, at least for the human sciences. Nevertheless, this danger is also necessary, for it is the price we have to pay in order to say anything about the body. The purpose of our colloquium is to question the place of the real body within a system of representation. We are equally interested in the organisation of the forms of representation that concern the body, and the status of the represented body. We intend to investigate the relation between the real body and its symbolic forms, insisting on aesthetic, political, and social issues specific to studies of the body. We would particularly appreciate communications focusing on theory. Possible subjects might include the following:

Real body/represented body: reversibility of the structure.

Are representations a means to dominate over the real body, a deeply political structure where a process of “civilisation des moeurs”[8] is at play? Is the body no more than a space for creating norms? Does the destabilization of systems of representation at work in so many of the arts (hybridism, teratology in writing, etc.), appear as a way to rethink the status of the body?

The forms of the representation of the body

If the representation of the body depends on a symbolic form that expresses a general relation to the world, can we say that the body is represented in a specific way? Various modes of representation and their influence on the representation itself could be questioned. Can the body be considered as a symbol, along the lines of Goethe's theorisation, that is, as a particular structure synthetizing various elements while simultaneously linked to the general? Can the symbol maintain both the referent and the larger system that surrounds it, or does it obliterate the real body in order to render it entirely acceptable? In which system of values is it then reintegrated? Similarly, the status of the mark on the body can be examined. Every mark on the skin is a sign, and, as such, a hermeneutic promise, which allows an interpretation that has the potential to be transcribed discursively.

The violence of representation

Finally, we would like to question the violence implied by the passage between the real body and the represented one – or their coexistence – in a society where, according to Baudrillard[9], for instance, body is reduced to a system of signs, becoming a marketable good at the cost of a fundamental violence against the real body. In like manner, Agamben's[10] use of economic or psychoanalytic models to rethink both the real and the represented body (in art, for example) may be challenged or integrated into papers. Finally, the violence of representation poses the problem of the body of the reader/spectator and allows us to rethink a theory of reception based on the body.


Researchers are invited to send their proposals to the following address: labocmdr@gmail.com in document format (.doc). In addition to an abstract (500 words max, including title of paper), the file should contain the following information: name, first name, address, e-mail address, status, discipline, institution, current research.

before the 15th of January of 2013

Abstracts and communications may be in French or in English.

The colloquium, organized by the junior laboratory “Corps : Méthodes, Discours et Représentations” will take place at the École Normale Supérieure de Lyon on the 17th and 18th of October of 2013.


  • ENS de Lyon - Parvis René Descartes
    Lyon, France (69)


  • Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Attached files


  • corps, représentations, discours


  • Cécile Codet
    courriel : cecile [dot] codet [at] ens-lyon [dot] fr
  • Stéphanie Chapuis-Després
    courriel : stephanie [dot] chapuis-despres [at] univ-smb [dot] fr
  • Mathieu Gonod
    courriel : labocmdr [at] gmail [dot] com

Information source

  • Stéphanie Chapuis-Després
    courriel : stephanie [dot] chapuis-despres [at] univ-smb [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Bodies and representations: a "liaison dangereuse"? », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Thursday, December 20, 2012, https://calenda.org/233084

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