Eva Botella-Ordinas Discussion

METABODY CONFERENCE 4 – Madrid, Friday 11th July 2014

METABODY - Media Embodiment Tekhnè and Bridges of Diversity



CFP - Call for papers - Language: English

Deadline: 6th June, 2014


In the 1990s, Jan Bremmer and Herman Roodenburg edited A Cultural History of Gesture, and in 2009 Past and Present issued a special supplement to the politics of gesture. During the last twenty years cultural history, history of science and of emotions devoted much of their efforts to contextualize gestures and movements, showing the cultural and temporal mutability of concepts, representations and practices of gestural and kinetic experiences.  The study of the codification of bodies ‘social choreographies is essential to understand modernity´s key concepts such as commerce, manners, politeness, emotions, normality, disability, rationality, liberty or agency. 

On the other hand movement has been the subject of ontological inquiry in philosophy since the preplatonic philosophers. It is possible to say that philosophy started being philosophy of movement with the Milesian Philosophers (Tales, Anaximander and Anaximenes) and Heraclitus as well as in non western traditions, until the arrival of Permenides, Plato and the fixation of being as immobile that has pervedad western culture ever since, where Aristotle's Physics laid down the foundations for thinking movement till mechanistic formulations took over, which pervade until today. Fixing movement through ideas, shapes, categories and numbers, reducing it to mechanistic and measurable causal relations has been a leitmotif of this dominant tradition, which is still at the epicenter of the current explosion of technologies of control.

However from Democritus, Epicurus and Lucretius, to Nietzsche and numerous XX and XXI century philosophers, notably Bergson, Whitehead and Deleuze, one can trace a "counterhistory" of philosophy dealing with ontologies of movement and becoming (rather than of being), as in the recent work of Brian Massumi and Erin Manning, in Karen Barad's Agential Realism, and in diverse currents of the "new materialisms".

The history and ontology of movement and gesture is especially relevant to the history of science, helping to explain not only the social and political background and epistemology of the evolutionary theory, psychiatry or biology. More than two decades of historical and philosophical studies revealed that gestures and movements are socio-cultural practices, crucial to understand “actors” in “their environment” and the cultural codification of their interactions. 

The social choreographies of movement-gestures not only affect our self-perception, the distinction between the human-non human and our interrelations, but also frame the political and legal systems shaping the way in which we live and move. They are central to concepts such as “individual”, “cultural heritage” or “human rights”. These choreographies increasingly delete the diversity of our gestures-movements and interactions, not only as part of our culture, but as part of ourselves.

Treatises about human and animal physiognomy, penal and international law, philosophy, medicine; books of etiquette, education of children or dogs ‘training; essays on biology, animal and human psychology, criminology; courtly or popular representations of manners, photography and engraving deployed by Darwin, films by Muybridge, old and new biometric tables, dances and experiments by Loie Fuller; handbooks to photographe brides, table manners, urban spaces ‘planning, social networks, catwalk shows, google-glasses, medicalization and treatment of autism or promotion of anorexia and just few examples of relevant case studies for this history and ontology.

The aim of this conference is to discuss about the past and present of the distinction between gesture and movement, the limits of their cultural intelligibility and scientific legibility, the analysis of the dismissed elements to define a gesture and the ontologies and historical epistemologies in which these definitions and practices are built. Likewise, it is our goal to open proposals for new ontologies and epistemologies of movement-gestures able to give alternatives to the current tendencies to control, fix or choreograph the movements of bodies at all scales, a paradigm of control which Jaime del Val has called the pan-choreographic.

Amongst other topics, we propose:

  • Studies on the history of movement and gesture control: mainstream technologies of production and diffusion of some movement-gestures both in humans and non-humans from ancient times to the present.   Social media. Social Choreographies. Panoptic. Panchoreographic. Biometrics. Robotics. Simulation. Movement capture. Movement analysis. Biopolitics of gesture.  Emotion analysis.
  • Ontology and history of movement and gesture. Distinction between movement and gesture. Western and non-western philosophies of movement. Performativity and metaformativity. Posthuman performativity. Intra-action. Agential realism. New materialisms. 
  • Epistemology of movement. Cognitive Sciences. Physics. Proprioception. Premovement. Movement theories. Perception. Affordances. Enaction.
  • History and ontology of movement-gesture in relation to the concepts of human, individual, organism or community, their restrictions and overloading. Concepts such as heritage and cultural heritage restricting gestures-movement-relations and ecologies of relations transcending these concepts: naturcultural and subaltern perspectives understanding life as a relational process, breaking identity barriers of species, gender, class, etc. Postcolonialism and neocolonialism, subaltern cultures, hegemony of western getures, aborigenal cultures, naturecultures, humanimals, animal getures. Posthumanism and Metahumanism.
  •  The history and ontology of abstract binaries such as nature-culture, ability-disability, human-animal-machine. Past and present conceptions of disabled, non-adult, non-rational, deviant, non-human bodies; their gestures-movements and their relation to definitions of rationality and agency, to social norms, law and ecology.
  •  Identification of corporealities and emotions in relation to specific gestures-movements, and identity, politeness, development and civilization in relation to them. 
  • Scientific conventions (notions and practices) and subaltern knowledges´alternatives on gestures-movement from historical, epistemological and ontological perspectives. Scientific performances of rationality, objectivity and authority, and analysis of observation and proof construction through history.

If you are interested in participating in this conference, please send us a proposal of no more than 300 words for a 20 minutes presentation to by 6th June 2014.

Organizing Committee: 

Jaime del Val – Reverso

Eva Botella Ordinas – Depto. Historia Moderna, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid