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Body metaphors, microcosm, and global intellectual history

In the pre-modern Christian and Islamic worlds a given community (the city, the church, the kingdom, the guild, the state, etc.) was frequently imagined as a body. The body metaphor could evoke ideas of unity, interdependence, hierarchy, health and illness, integrity, fertility, and so on, and transfer such ideas onto the political plan. The body metaphor underpinned legal theories of the corporation, scholastic ethical-political theory, ecclesiastical discourse about and against heresy, as well as early modern political thought and religious polemic.
Body-political metaphors have not been as central in the historiography on pre-modern East Asian political thought. Already in early Daoist, Confucian and Buddhist traditions, however, the correlation between the body and the state, rule over the state and rule over the body, was part of a widespread understanding of the relationship between macrocosm and microcosm in writings, images, and ritual. This workshop gathers case-studies from different cultural areas before ca. 1650, with the aim of comparing ideas and usages of the body metaphor and microcosm-macrocosm analogies.

Research Cycle | Political Thought and the Body: Europe and East Asia, ca. 1100-1650

Director of Studies | Serena Ferente

Junior Fellows | Rudi Capra, Giorgio Lizzul, Evgeniya Shelina, Yaara Morris

In-person event will be in UvA (Bushuis, Kloveniersburgwal 48, F1.01B, Amsterdam).


21 Jun 2023


All Day

More Info

Poster [.pdf]


University of Amsterdam
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