International Conference 2019

„Concepts of Humans and Nature between Specificity and Universality”

The Research Training Group 1876 "Early Concepts of Humans and Nature: Universal, Specific, Interchanged" invites to its International Conference "Concepts of Humans and Nature between Specificity and Universality" to be held in 2019 on July, 15th–17th at the Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz (Germany).

Within the framework of the international conference, the RTG aims to deal with the question of possibly universal basic patterns of concepts and their causes as well as with the specific implementations of concepts of humans and nature in early societies. We would like to foster a discussion on whether and how the body or, more generally, our physically grounded experience might be involved in understanding, shaping and even creating concepts within the domains of humans and nature. Thereby we aim to explore the universal or contextual nature of those concepts.


Monday, 15. June 2019

8:40 Registration
9:10 Stefan Müller-Stach
Welcome by the Vice President for Research and Early Career Academics of the JGU
9:15 Tanja Pommerening
Welcome and Introduction to the Reseach Training Group
9:25 Chiara Ferella and Ulrike Steinert
Introduction to the International Conference


Panel 1: Zones, parts, functions – the relationship between body experience and body concepts
The human body and its basic functions have hardly changed for thousands of years and work almost identically in every human. As a result, descriptions and representations of bodies often show a striking similarity in various cultures. In this vein, conceptual metaphor theory with the study of primary metaphors/image schemas demonstrates that concepts based on universal bodily experience may exist in different cultures (e.g. body as a CONTAINER). Despite these similarities, which might be attributed to the biological basis of the human body and human cognition, body concepts that rest upon concrete human experience of bodies, can also differ among cultures and are obviously subject to culturally specific factors. This tension between universal and culture-specific patterns concerning the body and ideas surrounding it is already evident in ancient cultures and can be reconstructed from diverse sources (e.g. texts and material culture).

9:40 Simone Gerhards, Nadine Gräßler (Mainz)
From Embodied Experience to Body Concepts
10:20 Rosemary A. Joyce (Berkeley, California)
Being and Meaning in Prehispanic Central America
11:00 Coffee Break
11:30 Rune Nyord (Atlanta, Gerogia)
Bodies of Stone and Wood: Concepts and experiences of statues as substitute bodies in ancient Egypt
12:10 Yudit K. Greenberg (Winter Park, Florida)
The Lovers’ Bodies in the Gitagovinda and Shir Ha-shirim (Song of Songs): A comparative reading of Hindu and Jewish sacred text
12:50 Lunch
12:10 Reuven Kiperwasser (Jerusalem)
Order of Universe and (Dis)Orders of Body
15:00 Han Nijdam (Leeuwarden)
Body Schemas in Medieval Frisian Law Texts
15:40 Coffee Break
16:10 Shahrzad Irannejad and Aleksandar Milenkovic (Mainz)
From Localization of Functions to Embodiment of Concepts
16:50 Panel Discussion
17:20 Coffee Break
18:00 Location: Atrium Maximum!
Keynote Lecture
Barbara Tversky (Stanford, California)
Putting the Mind in the World
19:00 Reception


Tuesday. 16. June 2019

Panel 2: Conceptualizing Sky and Heaven – Human interactions with meteorological and cosmic phenomena
The sky as a physical space evades direct human access. It can only be observed from a distance, but is the origin of and stage for many fascinating phenomena that greatly influence human lives. Therefore, it has always been a fruitful subject of reflection and speculation of various kinds generated by the human need to explain observable phenomena. While seeking those explanations, people inevitably project diverse conceptions and beliefs into their own understanding of ‘sky’. Although ‘transcendent’ beings and places, such as gods and the afterlife as a celestial abode, are often located in heaven, the conceptualization of heaven itself, of sky and celestial phenomena alike, seems to derive primarily from everyday human experience.
Within this panel we aim to shed light on conceptualizations of the sky/heaven as well as its meteorological, cosmic and topological dynamics in different pre-modern cultures (c. 3000 BC–1500 AD) and to compare them with each other.

9:30 Laura Borghetti, Sandra Hofert, Mirna Kjorveziroska, Marie-Charlotte von Lehsten and Katharina Zartner (Mainz)
Skies and Heavens: an interdisciplinary perspective
10:10 Edward Wright (Phoenix, Arizona)
Cosmos and Afterlife: The impact of advances in cosmology on the religious imagination in ancient Israel and early Judaism
10:50 Coffee Break
11:20 Marvin Schreiber (Berlin)
Relationship, Correspondence, and Construction of the Cosmic Structures of Heaven and Earth in First Millennium BCE Mesopotamia
12:00 Tom H. Davies (Princeton, New Jersey)
Bodies of Stone and Wood: Concepts and experiences of statues as substitute bodies in ancient Egypt
12:40 Lunch
14:10 Daniel W. Graham (Provo, Utah)
Greek Cosmology
14:50 Matthias Däumer (Wien)
The Script That Fell to Earth. Media-Mythological Thoughts on the 'First Book of Enoch' and Wolfram von Eschenbach's ‘Parzival'
15:30 Coffee Break (with opportunities for personal exchange with the poster organizers)
16:15 Feray Coskun (Istanbul)
Celestial Phenomena, Nature and Man in the Ottoman Cosmographies
16:55 Panel Discussion
20:00 Dinner


Wednesday, 17. June 2019

Panel 3: Investigating concepts of the dead body
In our modern societies death is usually associated with the decay of the body and, ultimately, the complete disappearance of the lifeless shell. However, our perception may not concur with concepts of earlier cultures.
In Ancient Egypt, for instance, mummification was practiced to stop the decay process. The mortal shell was by no means considered lifeless, because the souls of the deceased regularly returned to the dead body in order to revive it. During the Middle Ages a corpse could officiate as both a defendant and witness in a trial. This is exemplified by the Cadaver Synod of 879 AD, for which Pope Formosus was exhumed to be accused posthumously. In addition to such culture-specific ideas of the dead body, there are also perceptions that may be considered as possible universalities, for instance the fact that in many cultures the corpse is depicted as a sleeping person These examples show that a dead body can reflect various conceptions: it could be understood as a vessel, as a person who can actively interact with the living or as a sleeping person.

9:30 Rebekka Pabst and Oxana Polozhentseva (Mainz)
Dead Bodies: Conceptualizations of the corpse from ancient Egyptian and Medieval perspectives
10:10 Wilfried Rosendahl (Mannheim)
On the handling of the corpse - a cross-cultural view from the Palaeolithic to the early modern period
10:50 Coffee Break
11:20 Alondra Domínguez Ángeles and Adriana Gómez Aiza (Hidalgo, Mexico)
Corporeal Transformation: Self-decapitation and nahualism in Mesoamerican tradition
12:00 Annette Kehnel (Mannheim)
“They Don’t Accept Death”
12:40 Lunch
14:10 Fabian Neuwahl (Köln)
At Last Death Filled the Sanctuaries with Lifeless Bodies…: Dead bodies in ancient plague descriptions
14:50 Romedio Schmitz-Esser (Graz)
The Return of the Mummy: Medieval Knowledge of Ancient Egyptian Embalming
15:30 Coffee Break
16:00 Panel and Conference Discussion
17:00 Concluding Remarks and End of Conference