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Imagining the Body in France and the Francophone World

University of Birmingham
Arts and Law, Research, Students
Friday 19th (00:00) - Saturday 20th January 2018 (23:59)
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Imagining the Body conference logo

Third-year PhD student Antonia Wimbush is organising a conference with two other postgraduate researchers (Polly Galis, University of Leeds, and Maria Tomlinson, University of Reading).

The conference theme is ‘Imagining the Body in France and the Francophone World’ and will be held at the University of Birmingham on 19th and 20th January 2018. The team has been successful in securing external funding to host the conference (approximately £800 from Institute of Modern Languages Research and £400 from the Society of French Studies). For further information and for conference updates please visit:

The team has also received an award from the University of Leeds LCS PGR Experience Fund, who have agreed to contribute additional funds to a follow-up project about the body at the University of Leeds in the spring of 2018.

  • Confirmed keynote speakers: Dr Kate Averis and Professor Lisa Downing
  • Invited artists: Fiorenza Menini and Dr Jacqueline Taylor 
  • Organisers: Antonia Wimbush, Polly Galis and Maria Tomlinson

With the generous support of the Institute of Modern Languages Research and Society for French Studies.

The notion of ‘imagining the body’ problematises the possibility of representing the body as it is en soi - whether it be depicted textually, visually or orally – which has remained a matter of conjecture amongst scholars within creative and theoretical fields alike. Interpretations of bodily identity and development have proved equally conflicted, and the vision of a shared bodily experience has generated both comfort and controversy, particularly amongst feminists and within the queer community. What exactly do we mean by the body and how do we represent it? Is there a commonality of bodily experience?

The body in all its complexity has fascinated and inspired artists, writers, filmmakers, journalists and philosophers for centuries, and is foundational to the French and Francophone aesthetic regime. This two-day bilingual, cross-cultural and interdisciplinary conference aims to bring together academics and postgraduate researchers working on representations of the body from both French and Francophone studies, in a wide range of disciplines, historical periods, and critical approaches. The purpose of the conference is to facilitate dialogue, debate, and exchange about why it is important to study the body in French and Francophone studies. This conference seeks to question how portrayals and conceptions of the body are influenced by and come to influence global, social phenomena (such as culture, politics, geography, socio-economics, law and medicine), and above all, how French and Francophone creative practice and theory shapes our understanding of the body.

The following is an indicative, but by no means exhaustive, list of the kinds of issues we hope to address:

  • Gender and/or sexuality and the body (the female body, the male body, the transgender body etc.)
  • The maternal body
  • The ageing body
  • Violence and abuse of the body
  • The body in movement/stasis or in situ
  • The body in exile
  • The body and society
  • Animal bodies

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