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).

The panel will focus on the body’s individual parts, zones and functions with the aim to examine the relationship between concrete experiences of the body and body concepts as well as the tension between universal and culture-specific elements more thoroughly. Thus, the leading questions of this panel are:

  • What is the relationship between body experiences and body concepts and which factors influence this relation? What can be concluded from this about universal or culture-specific aspects related to concepts of the body?
  • Which body parts, zones and/or functions are particularly relevant for concept formation?
  • Which concepts are based on human experience of physical bodies? How are they represented in source materials? In which way are these concepts processed?


Panel organisers:

Simone Gerhards, Nadine Gräßler, Aleksandar Milenkovic, Sonja Speck