Seminar: Comparing the Body? Early modern perception of Indian people between religion, ethnos and race
Antje Flüchter is Professor of Cultural History at Bielfeld University. She has led several important projects relating to translation, cultural translation and transculturality in the Early Modern period, with a particular emphasis on the role of Jesuits.
Flüchter is a fellow on The Body in Translation: Historicising and Reinventing Medical Humanities and Knowledge Translation at CAS this year.
On Thursday, 17 October, Flüchter will hold a seminar in the Turret room at CAS, titled Comparing the Body? Early modern perception of Indian people between religion, ethnos and race.
Abstract: Nowadays, it is quite normal to distinguish people on the basis of their appearance, that is on their bodily characteristics. But we, with our modern scientific and medical world view, often forget that the body and its conceptualisation is not always the same, it has changed and continues to changes across time depending on specific social and cultural understandings. If we want to translate the body, which is one of the aims of our project at CAS, we need to interrogate how the body can be understood and consequently experienced differently. Moreover, asking about the role of the human body in categorizing humankind, I also want to investigate the beginnings of racism. My paper examines how different concepts of the body have changed. Whereas in pre-modern time religion provided the main criteria for distinguishing humans, this was replaced by bodily characteristics at the turn to modernity. The paper traces in its first part this development using the example of the German discourse about people in India, from the 16th to the 20th century, starting with early modern encyclopaedias about Indian religion (Abraham Rogerius), going on to modern comparative geography (Friedrich Ratzel), and finally contrasting it with 20th century race theories. This seems to be a rather simple development, but history is never simple. Therefore, the paper will continue in a second part, with a very specific early modern way of distinguishing people using their bodily appearance, that is the early modern physiognomy (as developed by Giambattista della Porta).