Demons in the Body

One day Workshop

Demons in the Body

Monday 28th July 2014
Mansfield College, Oxford


Call for Participation

This workshop intends to bring people interested in the meaning and purpose of traditional beliefs in demons and vampires in Southeast Europe together to share ideas and to try to draw the line between “our part of Europe” and “their part of Europe”. Further it will also explore the ways in which these ideas, both positively and negatively, can be seen to inform many contemporary narratives of disease, the supernatural and the undead. In particular, the workshop will aim to explore the relationship between illness, disease, demons, vampires and the body. It will seek to bring together practitioners and academics to look at alternative concepts of illness, and especially to discuss the idea of ‘infection’ with a focus on Southeast European Folk belief and the theories of Paracelsus about illness-bringing forth demons. Equally there will be a clear examination of the concept of demons as figurations of illness and there will be an assessment of the ways of dealing with them and how to ‘heal’ the ill ones. The over-arching purpose of the day is to attempt to get a new look on the vampire and its role in Southeast European folklore and the ways in which the past remains as an ‘undead’ presence in the modern world.

Workshop I: Demonic Bodies: Illness and Disease in Southeast European Folk Belief
Opening proposal of Areas to be discussed lead by Peter Mario Kreuter:

The idea of disease as something brought into the human body from an external source – and demons and vampires in particular – was, and partially still is, at the heart of Southeastern European folk belief. However, this concept is not only restricted to the Balkans, and is neither only a concept of popular belief. This concept is typified in the work of Theophrastus Bombast von Hohenheim (1493-1541), better known as Sobriquet Paracelsus, who rejected the medicine of the ancestors as embodied in Hippokrates and Epikur and Galen as well as the knowledge found in the main books of the day, and started to create his own medical theories about illness and health. One of his concepts was that of disease as something brought into the human body from the outside by the use of demons and spirits. Tiny demons entered human bodies and caused, by their existence or by their negative attitudes, all manner of illness. A variation of that belief was also widespread across Bulgaria and Romania, where people also believed in the negative effect of demons. The difference here is that each demon brings its own particular disease, but they do not necessarily have enter the body but their proximity alone causes people to get sick or even die.
The vampire is also a kind of demon – a dead person unable to pass over to the other world. Contrary to the image of the Dracula-like vampire we now know in the Western literary tradition, the vampire of the Balkans does not suck blood, but makes people die by his presence in the room or near the bed in which a person lies. Consequently demons can be seen as the key to understanding certain beliefs about illness and disease – demons and demonic figures in South-eastern Europe and their relationship to either mankind or illness. This workshop will follow the principles and aims of Inter-Disciplinary.Net (IDN). IDN was set up to bring academics and practitioners together to discuss research, ideas, good practice and best practice: to help individuals to think critically and think with an inter-disciplinary lens.

Topics:
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The concept of illness and disease in the theories of Paracelsus
-Demons of illness in Southeast European folkloric belief
-The vampire of the Balkans
-The discussion about the vampire in 18th century enlightened literature
-Demons and vampires today in South-eastern Europe

To be followed by an open discussion of the topics in a round-table situation.
For this purpose, a couple of texts (in English) will be examined with the purpose of developing a deeper understanding for the evolution of the idea of illness coming from outside shall be created as well as some deeper insights in to how rural communities deal with an attack from the outside, may it be a disease or a ‘foreign body’ that functions like a disease.

Workshop II: Plague or Panacea: Vampires and Disease on Film from Nosferatu to Twilight…and Beyond.

From the vampires first appearance on film it has been connected with the ideas of blood, contagion and disease. Yet whilst this continues much of the ideological intent of earlier periods, signifying otherness or spiritual and racial impurity, many narratives can be seen to reverse this idea, showing the vampire to either a resource for human longevity or an example of a post-human future. Through a consideration of key films, some well known and others not so, this workshop will examine many of the conflicting views held about the vampire and its place in relation to medicine, science, human health and vitality. Further, this workshop, will also consider the ways in which earlier folkloric views, and what Judith Halberstam calls their ‘monstrous’ or monsterizing, ‘technologies’ can be seen to operate within these more contemporary texts and what they might say about 21st century western culture.

Discussant 1: Simon Bacon on A Plague of Difference: Medical Metaphors and Vampiric Identity in the 20th and 21st Centuries.

The establishing discussion will be divided in to two parts exploring the positive and negative views of the vampire. In the first part, films, such as Nosferatu (1922), Atom Age Vampire (1960), Ganga & Hess (1973), The Hunger (1983) Trouble Everyday (2001) and Twilight (2008) utilise the idea of the vampire as being the manifestation of something unclean, excessive and other, and consequently contagious. In the other section, movies and series such as Son of Dracula (1943), Ultraviolet (2006), Perfect Creature (2006), Vampire Diaries (2009-present) and Let Me In (2010) examples vampirism as being a ‘disease’ that produces autonomy and agency and a form of human becoming.

Discussant 2: Stacey Abbott on Vampires and Zombies in 20th and 21st Century film and television.

The following discussion will specifically examine how the vampire in film and television has increasingly been re-imagined through our changing relationship to science, focusing upon key aspects of this work that surrounds the ongoing relationship between the vampire and disease. Discussion of films and TV series to include Daybreakers (2009), I Am Legend (2007), Stakeland (2010), 28 Days Later (2002), The Walking Dead (2010 – present), and In the Flesh (2013 – present), will highlight how this focus upon disease has increasingly blurred the distinction between the vampire and the zombie within contemporary culture, demonstrating a growing uncertainty about the stability of the body alongside changing notions of life and death.

To be followed by an open discussion of the topics in a round-table situation.
For this discussion four or five films will be discussed in depth to explore the ways in which they carry the signifiers and meaning of previous incarnations of the undead into the present and the ways in which, contemporary versions might reinforce or subvert the processes of ‘monsterization’.

Places on this workshop are capped so we ask that, if you wish to attend, that you complete and send in a booking form as soon as possible:

Peter Mario Kreuter: kreuter@nullios-regensburg.de
Simon Bacon: simonmonster@nullinter-disciplinary.net

Rob Fisher: demonbody1@nullinter-disciplinary.net

Workshop Schedule:

Monday 28th July 2014
From 09.00
Conference Registration

10.00
Welcome and Opening Remarks
Simon Bacon and Peter Mario Kreuter

10.10
Session 1: Demonic Bodies: Illness and Disease in Southeast European Folk Belief
Opening proposal of Areas to be discussed lead by Peter Mario Kreuter

11.15
Coffee

11.45
Session 2: Open discussion of the topics in a round-table situation
Peter Mario Kreuter

12.45
Lunch

14.00
Session 3: Workshop II: Plague or Panacea: Vampires and Disease on Film from Nosferatu to Twilight…and Beyond.

Discussant 1: Simon Bacon on A Plague of Difference: Medical Metaphors and Vampiric Identity in the 20th and 21st Centuries.

Discussant 2: Stacey Abbott on Vampires and Zombies in 20th and 21st Century film and television.

15.30
Coffee

16.00
Session 4: Open discussion of the topics in a round-table situation
Stacey Abbott and Simon Bacon

17.30
Wine Reception

18.30
Workshop Ends

Registration Fee: £85. This Includes:

  • conference registration fee
  • discounted rate off any Inter-Disciplinary Press or Fisher Imprints publications
  • access to the conference project initiative support materials
  • morning coffee break with coffee, tea, fruit juice, fresh fruits, cakes
  • 2 course waiter served lunch
  • afternoon coffee break with coffee, tea, fruit juice, fresh fruits, cakes
  •  Wine Reception

Workshop Leaders:
Peter Mario Kreuter, Institute for East and Southeast European Studies (Regensburg) Germany
Simon Bacon, Independent Researcher

Organising Committee:
Rob Fisher: Inter-Disciplinary.Net

Selected works will also be published in a special issue of the Monsters and the Monstrous Journal in 2015. Details of the journal can be found here: Monsters and the Monstrous

Please note: Inter-Disciplinary.Net is a not-for-profit network and we are not in a position to be able to assist with conference travel or subsistence.