Different shades of white: Interdisciplinary perspectives on the albinotic body

6th - 8th September 2018, Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz

International Conference

Several phenomena have contributed to the increased attention paid to albinism in the past decade. The incredible atrocities inflicted on persons with albinism in Eastern Africa made international headlines. In response, local and global actors – from the Tanzania Albinism Society to Under the Same Sun to the United Nations – have increased and/or started campaigning against such human rights violations. A social movement by and for people with albinism emerged. Another development grew shortly after: While the first fashion models with albinism had already worked during the 1990s and the early 21st century, it was ten years ago when the most famous ones – Shaun Ross and Diandra Forrest from New York City – forged their careers. They, too, have made international headlines. Both phenomena contributed to a wider circulation of knowledge, texts and images about and of albinism. They also emphasize the fact that albinism is much more than only a medical phenomenon. Albinism has come into focus today as a social and aesthetic reality. Repulsion and attraction are, nevertheless, not new reactions toward hypopigmented bodies. From the Enlightenment era, through freak shows in the 19th and 20th century, to Hollywood films, they were interpreted as racially transgressive, wonders, oddities or even otherworldly figures.

At the conference, participants present papers that discuss albinism in historical, social, aesthetic and/or political perspective. We are interested in the varying perception, performance, representation, framing and treatment of albinism across different times and in several locales. How does the presentation of albinism differ in medicine, art photography, fictional literature or in the humanities and social sciences? The conference brings together experts from inside and outside academia to foster dialog and exchange about practical, political, artistic and scholarly perspectives.

In addition to lectures and presentations, the conference also comprises a World Café session for all participants. An exhibition of photographs and videos by several international artists portraying persons with albinism complements the conference.

We welcome guests, who are asked to send their request to: albinism@uni-mainz.de

Conference language will be English.

Conveners of the conference are the members of the research project Un/doing Albinism: Recodings of a bodily difference through historically shifting frames at the Department of Anthropology and African Studies, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. Prof. Dr. Matthias Krings coordinates the project; Kathrin Hoff and Christopher Hohl are research assistants. The project is itself a subproject of a larger multidisciplinary DFG Research Group Un/doing Differences. Practices in Human Differentiation, established in 2013.