CFP – The Body’S Health, the Soul’s Salvation: Healthcare and Religion in Rural Areas (Western Europe XVth-XIXth Centuries) – International colloquium of the Société Suisse d’Histoire Rurale (SSHR) (Swiss Society for Rural History)

Yates Thompson 19 f. 40 @britishlibrary (Brunetto Latini)

Organisers: Sandro Guzzi-Heeb, Madline Favre, Aline Johner, Lucas Rappo, Alessandro Ratti (SSHR/Université de Lausanne), Nathalie Dahn-Singh (SSHR/Université de Fribourg)

1–2 September 2022, Université de Lausanne, Switzerland

Deadline for proposal submissions: 1 February 2022

 

***Please find the English version below***

 

Appel à communications
pour le colloque international de la Société Suisse d’Histoire Rurale (SSHR)
Santé des corps et salut des âmes :
soins et religion en milieu rural (Europe occidentale, XVe-XIXe siècles)

Depuis quelques années, on assiste à un véritable regain d’intérêt pour l’étude des pratiques dites « populaires » en relation avec la santé ; en parallèle, de nouvelles approches émergent également autour de l’histoire des expériences religieuses. Néanmoins, les démarches qui visent à mettre en lumière le rapport entre ces deux sphères, notamment dans les régions périphériques (rurales et de montagne), demeurent rares.

L’objectif de ce colloque est donc d’approfondir la problématique de l’interpénétration entre soins, corps, santé et religion dans le monde rural, en adoptant une approche à la fois interdisciplinaire et dans une perspective de longue durée. Comment revisiter, à l’aune des récents développements de la recherche historique (histoire, histoire des religions, histoire de l’art, anthropologie historique…), des pratiques, des savoirs et des objets qui, jusqu’à présent, ont surtout été abordés par les folkloristes et par les ethnologues ?

Les contributeurs·trices seront invité·e·s à réfléchir à cette question générale en accordant une attention particulière aux acteurs·rices. D’un côté, le rôle joué par les spécialistes de la santé et du salut des âmes – curés, apothicaires, guérisseurs et guérisseuses, sages-femmes –, ainsi que par les institutions religieuses (confréries, hospices, monastères…) : qui sont-ils/elles et comment agissent-ils/elles dans leurs rôles d’intermédiaires entre le(s) corps, la santé et l’univers religieux ? Quelle est leur fonction dans la prise en charge matérielle, physique et spirituelle des populations en milieu rural et alpin ? D’autre part, le colloque se penchera sur les usages que les hommes et les femmes mettent en place afin de prendre soin de leur santé et de leur propre corps, – soit les pratiques « d’autosoins » telles qu’elles se manifestent dans la population.

Les deux journées du colloque visent à mobiliser et valoriser une documentation variée et produite hors des seuls cercles érudits (écrits personnels, almanachs, objets dévotionnels, ex-votos, icônes, images…) et à enquêter sur des lieux particuliers (sanctuaires, chapelles, lieux de guérisons ou énergétiques, mais aussi la maison et l’espace domestique). Le cadre proposé invite ainsi à analyser les traditions anciennes, les croyances religieuses et les connaissances scientifiques, afin de réfléchir à la transmission des savoirs sur la relation entre les corps et les âmes en dehors des circuits savants. Les contributions prenant en compte la dimension du genre seront particulièrement les bienvenues.

Nous invitons donc des propositions originales s’inscrivant en priorité dans les axes thématiques suivants :

  • Un premier axe s’oriente autour du « corps sain » : comment la religion est-elle utilisée pour soigner les corps en milieu rural ? Les propositions s’inscrivant dans cet axe aborderont d’une part les pratiques qualifiées de « superstitieuses » (recettes médicinales, formules magiques, recours au « secret » …) associées à un rapport à la transcendance et à l’univers de la magie. D’autre part, les usages admis par les autorités religieuses seront également interrogés, tels que le recours à l’intercession des saint·e·s, les pèlerinages, les processions ou l’utilisation d’exvotos et de reliques. Enfin, il s’agit également d’aborder le rapport quotidien des hommes et des femmes aux prescriptions religieuses concernant les corps, notamment l’hygiène, l’alimentation, l’habillement, mais aussi l’érotisme et la sexualité.
  • Un deuxième axe interroge le « corps saint ». D’abord, celui des vivant·e·s : comment atteindre le salut par des pratiques qui purifient le corps ? Qu’il s’agisse d’habitudes alimentaires (jeûnes, interdits…), de l’abstinence sexuelle ou encore, plus radicalement, de l’ascétisme ou de la flagellation, comment les croyant·e·s modifient-ils/elles leurs pratiques corporelles dans un but spirituel ? Les soins apportés aux corps s’étendent également au domaine de la mort : comment les membres d’une communauté prennent-ils/elles en charge les corps des défunt·e·s pour assurer le salut de leur âme, et qui sont les acteurs·rices qui se consacrent à ces gestes (famille, voisinage, confréries) ?
  • Un troisième axe s’intéresse aux pratiques liées aux « cycles de la vie », soit aux rituels autour de l’enfance, de la grossesse, des menstruations, de l’accouchement, de la vieillesse et de la mort. Cet axe abordera les gestes et les célébrations qui marquent les étapes de la transformation des corps. Les croyances autour des « corps » immatériels (esprits, revenants), ainsi que des médiateurs·rices intervenant comme intermédiaires entre deux états (médiums, curés, exorcistes…) permettront d’interroger plus directement encore les entrelacements constants des différents cycles entre corps et repos des âmes, tels qu’ils s’articulent dans le monde rural.

Soumission des propositions
Les propositions de communications comprendront un titre et un résumé (env. 2500-3000 caractères, espaces et notes compris), ainsi qu’une courte présentation personnelle (env. 1000 caractères, y compris la fonction, l’affiliation institutionnelle, les principales publications et le courrier électronique), le tout dans un unique document Word. Les propositions doivent être envoyées d’ici au 1er février 2022 à l’adresse suivante : guillaume.favrod@unil.ch.

Les candidat·e·s seront informé·e·s des résultats de la sélection au cours du mois d’avril 2022. Les communications dureront 20 minutes. Les langues du colloque sont le français et l’anglais. Les participant·e·s seront invité·e·s à remettre un résumé de leur conférence (2 pages) 15 jours avant le colloque.

Les organisateurs·trices souhaitent publier une sélection des communications présentées, en tenant compte de l’avis d’un comité scientifique. En ce sens, ils et elles invitent les participant·e·s à proposer une recherche originale et inédite.

Modalités pratiques
Les frais d’hébergement et de voyage ainsi que les repas durant les deux journées seront pris en charge.

Comité d’organisation
Sandro GUZZI-HEEB, Madline FAVRE, Aline JOHNER, Lucas RAPPO, Alessandro RATTI (SSHR/Université de Lausanne), Nathalie DAHN-SINGH (SSHR/Université de Fribourg).

Comité scientifique
Vincent BARRAS (Institut des humanités en médecine IHM, Lausanne) ; Anne BONZON (Université Paris 8) ; Simona BOSCANI LEONI (SSHR – Université de Berne) ; Christian GROSSE (Université de Lausanne) ; Philip RIEDER (Institut éthique histoire humanités IEH2, Genève) ; Rahel WUNDERLI (SSHR – Université de Berne).

 

***

 

Call for papers
for the international colloquium of the Société Suisse d’Histoire Rurale (SSHR) (Swiss Society for Rural History)
The Body’S Health, the Soul’s Salvation:
Healthcare and Religion in Rural Areas (Western Europe.  XVth-XIXth Centuries)

Recent years have seen renewed interest for the study of so-called “popular” practices in relation to health; likewise, new approaches have emerged in the history of religious experiences. However, studies that aim to highlight the relationship between these two spheres – notably in peripheral areas, both rural and alpine – remain rare.

This colloquium aims to further examine the issue of interpenetration between healthcare, bodies, health, and religion in the rural context by adopting both an interdisciplinary approach and a “long view” (perspective de longue durée). In light of recent developments in historical research (history, history of religions, art history, historical anthropology…), how can we revisit practices, knowledge, and objects which, until now, have mostly been studied by folklorists and ethnologists?

Contributors will be invited to discuss this general question by focusing particularly on the actors. On the one hand, the role played by specialists of health and the salvation of the soul – parish priests, apothecaries, healers, midwives – and religious institutions (confraternities, hospices, monasteries…): who are they and how do they act in their roles as intermediaries between bodies, health, and the religious realm? What function do they have in the material, physical, and spiritual care of rural and alpine populations? On the other hand, the colloquium will investigate practices and habits which men and women established in order to take care of their own health and bodies – such as “self-healthcare” practices.

Over the span of two days, we will mobilize and highlight various documents produced outside of erudite circles (personal writings, almanacs, devotional objects, ex-votos, icons, images…), and inquire about particular spaces (sanctuaries, chapels, healing grounds, but also the household and the domestic sphere). Thus, we invite the analysis of ancient traditions, religious beliefs, and scientific knowledge for the purpose of discussing knowledge transmission pertaining to the relationship between bodies and souls, as it manifests itself outside of the scholarly context. Papers that consider the gender dimension are most welcome.

We therefore invite innovative work in line with the below thematic focus:

  • Our first axis explores the “healthy body”: how is religion used to heal the body in rural areas? These papers will treat of practices deemed “superstitious” (medical recipes, magical formulas, use of the “secret” …), associated with transcendence and the magical realm. Furthermore, practices allowed by religious authorities will also be discussed, such as the intercession of the saints, pilgrimages, processions, the use of ex-votos and relics. Lastly, this axis will also consider how men and women daily related to religious prescriptions concerning bodies, hygiene, nutrition, clothing, as well as eroticism and sexuality.
  • Our second axis explores the “holy body”: concerning the living, how can they attain salvation through practices of bodily purification? Whether it be through nutritional habits (fasts, interdicts…), sexual abstinence, and more radically, ascetism or flagellation, how do believers modify their bodily practices for spiritual aims? Care of the body also concerns death: how do communities take care of their dead in order to secure their salvation and who are the actors in charge of these practices (families, neighbors, confraternities)?
  • Our third axis explores practices that concern “life cycles”, such as rituals surrounding infancy, pregnancy, menstruation, birth, old age, and death. This axis will discuss gestures and celebrations that mark milestones of the transformation of bodies. Moreover, inquiry will focus on beliefs about immaterial bodies (spirits, revenants), as well as mediators and intermediaries (mediums, parish priests, exorcists…), thus allowing us to question how rural society articulates the constant interweaving of life cycles, bodies, and souls’ rest.


Submission of proposals
Paper proposals will have a title and an abstract (circa 2500-3000 characters, spaces and footnotes included), as well as a short biographical presentation (circa 1000 characters, mentioning your academic position, institutional affiliation(s), primary publications, and email address), and will be in Word format. Proposals must be submitted before 1 February 2022 to the following address: guillaume.favrod@unil.ch.

Candidates will be informed of their selection in April 2022. Paper presentations should last 20 minutes. The colloquium will be held in French and in English. Participants will submit a two-page summary of their paper 15 days before the colloquium.

The organizers wish to publish a selection of the papers presented at the colloquium, taking into consideration the scientific comity’s opinion. Therefore, we encourage all participants to propose original and unpublished research.

Practical modalities
Costs pertaining to accommodation, traveling, and meals during both days will be covered.

Organizers
Sandro GUZZI-HEEB, Madline FAVRE, Aline JOHNER, Lucas RAPPO, Alessandro RATTI (SSHR/University of Lausanne), Nathalie DAHN-SINGH (SSHR/University of Fribourg).

Scientific committee
Vincent BARRAS (Institute of Humanities in Medicine IHM, Lausanne); Anne BONZON (University Paris 8) ; Simona BOSCANI LEONI (SSHR – University of Berne); Christian GROSSE (University of Lausanne); Philip RIEDER (Institute of Ethics History Humanities IEH2, Genève); Rahel WUNDERLI (SSHR – University of Berne).

Exhibition / Youtube videos – Melancholy: A New Anatomy – 29 September 2021 – 20 March 2022 – Treasury, Weston Library – Bodleian Library

29 September 2021 – 20 March 2022

Treasury, Weston Library

About the exhibition

‘Who is not a Foole, who is free from Melancholy?’, asked Robert Burton, 400 years ago, and answered his own question: ‘all the world is mad, is melancholy, dotes’.

Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy, first published in 1621, is a huge and innovative encyclopaedia of mental and emotional disorder, as understood in the late Renaissance. 

A scholar and clergyman in Christ Church, Oxford, Burton was one of the early users of the Bodleian Library and left many of the books in his own substantial collection to the Bodleian.

The Anatomy examines the causes and symptoms of melancholy or, as we would call it today, depression. Its remedies range from good food and exercise, to laughter, reading, friends, and music. Its closing page recommends that the reader ‘be not solitary, be not idle’, and the distraction provided by reading the Anatomy itself is one suggested cure.

Four hundred years later – as our mental health faces many challenges – this exhibition revisits the Anatomy, using objects from the Bodleian Libraries to highlight common experiences and connections over time.

Curated by Oxford experts in mental health research and the humanities, the exhibition shows how Burton’s holistic and multifaceted conception of cure finds surprising echoes in contemporary psychiatry and prescriptions for mental health.https://www.youtube.com/embed/fiwzWSEc7lA?rel=0

Watch each of our curators discuss their research area in more detail on our YouTube playlist

  Virtual exhibition opening panel

Watch the opening panel on YouTube

Chair: Niall Boyce, Editor of The Lancet Psychiatry

Speakers:

  • Professor John Geddes, Head of Department of Psychiatry
  • Dr Kathryn Murphy, Faculty of English
  • Sister Stephanie-Therese, Sisters of the Love of God
  • Sir Philip Pullman CBE

Introduced by Richard Ovenden OBE, Bodley’s Librarian

Learning resources

Melancholy: A New Anatomy exhibition trail

This exhibition trail, designed for secondary school pupils, explores the themes of Melancholy: A New Anatomy including the role of diet, reading and writing, outdoor spaces, faith-informed therapy and social contact for good mental health.

Through a series of nine questions, students are consider the legacy of Robert Burton’s 400 year old work and its relevance to modern therapeutic ideas and practice, and are prompted to reflect on their own experiences.

A separate sheet of suggested answers is provided for teachers.

 Download the exhibition trail

 Download the exhibition trail answers

Acknowledgements

Generously supported by The Guy and Elinor Meynell Charitable Trust

 Curators

More information on the Boldeian Library website

CFP – “Ageing and Medieval Spiritualities”, to be published in Quaderni di storia religiosa medievale

CALL FOR PAPERS
Ageing and Medieval Spiritualities


Editors: Mireia Comas-Via and Araceli Rosillo-Luque

Informations: 

Submissions: 500-800 words (Times New Roman 12, 1.5 space)
Deadline: 2022, January 14.

Contact: pr.senecta@ub.edu
Collective volume to be submitted to Quaderni di storia religiosa medievale in Autumm 2022.

Languages accepted: English, French, Italian, and Spanish.


Topics may address old women and men and ageing processes in connection with spirituality from a historical and cultural perspective.

Proposals may include but are not limited to:

  • Spiritual care of the aged soul: shelter, assistance and health practices aimed at elderly people; assistance practices were developed to shelter them and take care of them.
  • Long-live life within religious institutions (monasteries, convents, beguinages, canonical collegiates, parishes).
  • Old age and ageing in monasteries, understanding them as places chosen as personal projects of ageing.
  • Discourses on old age and spirituality: analysis of the iconographic and text representations with reference to old women and men saints, monks, nuns, mystics, beguines, bishops, or other religious figures.
  • Devotional practices and ageing in urban communities: charitable activities; confraternities as important venues of spiritual riches, and social capital; testamentary bequests.
  • Secular clergy and old age.
  • Non-claustral communities and individuals and old age (beguines, tertiaries, dissident groups).
  • Non-Christian spiritualities and ageing in the medieval context (Judaism, Islam).

New article – Speaking in Hands: Early Modern Preaching and Signed Languages for the Deaf, by Rosamund Oates, pub. in Past & Present, 2021

 
 
Published: 30 October 2021
 

Abstract

This article demonstrates that deaf men and women were integrated into early modern communities through use of sign language, and that Protestant concerns about preaching and hearing promoted sign language as a legitimate form of communication. Historians have believed that the Protestant emphasis on preaching excluded deaf people from heaven. However, not only did contemporaries believe that deaf people could be saved, but debates on this topic prompted a wider assessment of the nature of hearing loss and sensory knowledge. Discussions about deafness therefore had implications for all congregations, as English preachers used well-known manual gestures from rhetorical texts to make their sermons accessible for both the ‘spiritually’ and the ‘physically’ deaf. The experiences of deaf people in early modern England demonstrate the importance of religious practices in shaping perceptions of disability and impairment. By focusing on deaf parishioners, it is possible to explore some of the impacts of the Reformation on ideas of embodiment while modifying literary accounts of the representation of disability in the period. A little-known part of early modern history, the role of preachers in the evolution of signed languages for the deaf offers new perspectives on Reformation history and the growing field of disability history.

Article Contents

 

More information and Open Access on the editor website

New book – Understanding Disability Throughout History. Interdisciplinary Perspectives in Iceland from Settlement to 1936 – ed. by Hanna Björg Sigurjónsdóttir, James G. Rice, Routledge, 2021

ABSTRACT

Understanding Disability Throughout History explores seldom-heard voices from the past by studying the hidden lives of disabled people before the concept of disability existed culturally, socially and administratively.

The book focuses on Iceland from the Age of Settlement, traditionally considered to have taken place from 874 to 930, until the 1936 Law on Social Security (Lög um almannatryggingar), which is the first time that disabled people were referenced in Iceland as a legal or administrative category. Data sources analysed in the project represent a broad range of materials that are not often featured in the study of disability, such as bone collections, medieval literature and census data from the early modern era, archaeological remains, historical archives, folktales and legends, personal narratives and museum displays. The ten chapters include contributions from multidisciplinary team of experts working in the fields of Disability Studies, History, Archaeology, Medieval Icelandic Literature, Folklore and Ethnology, Anthropology, Museum Studies, and Archival Sciences, along with a collection of post-doctoral and graduate students.

The volume will be of interest to all scholars and students of disability studies, history, medieval studies, ethnology, folklore, and archaeology.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction

By Hanna Björg Sigurjónsdóttir, James G. Rice

Abstract 

The introduction provides the required background information about this volume for the readers. This includes some details about the “Disability before Disability” project upon which Understanding Disability Throughout History: Interdisciplinary perspectives in Iceland from Settlement to 1936 is based, such as the project’s goals and methodology. This is followed by a short overview of disability studies and its development since the 1980s, as well as some criticisms that have been raised about the discipline’s engagement with history. The introduction then provides some brief historical background about Iceland, with a specific focus on social conditions and marginalized populations. The introduction concludes with an overview of each research strand of the project that is represented in this volume – History, Folklore/Ethnology, Archaeology, Museum Studies, Medieval Icelandic Literature – and their engagement with Disability Studies, as well as a brief overview of the subject matter of each chapter.

 

Disability in Medieval Iceland

Some methodological concerns

By Christopher Crocker, Yoav Tirosh, Ármann Jakobsson

Abstract 

Disability and quality of life in the past was approached through case studies of skeletonised individuals from the monastic site, Skriðuklaustur in East Iceland (AD 1494–1554). Historical archaeology and osteological data were used simultaneously to identify bodily impairments visible on the skeleton and to make interpretations about the potentially disabling conditions associated with them. This chapter seeks to examine how impairments may have led to social disability and how society may have perceived people with such impairments. It likewise seeks to consider the how impaired and/or disabled individuals may have adapted to the biological limitations and potentially subsequent social marginalisation. The study results show that the impairments themselves answer little about social attitudes and past perspectives on disability but do nonetheless provide indications about life experience and the possible functional limitations these individuals may have faced. The cases used show at least that people had some reason to seek medical care there instead of staying at their relative’s residency, showing that disability lies in between the lines of impairment and temporal social perspectives.

 

Beneath the Surface

Disability in archaeological and osteobiographical contexts

By Steinunn Kristjánsdóttir, Joe W. Walser

Abstract 

Disability and quality of life in the past was approached through case studies of skeletonised individuals from the monastic site, Skriðuklaustur in East Iceland (AD 1494–1554). Historical archaeology and osteological data were used simultaneously to identify bodily impairments visible on the skeleton and to make interpretations about the potentially disabling conditions associated with them. This chapter seeks to examine how impairments may have led to social disability and how society may have perceived people with such impairments. It likewise seeks to consider the how impaired and/or disabled individuals may have adapted to the biological limitations and potentially subsequent social marginalisation. The study results show that the impairments themselves answer little about social attitudes and past perspectives on disability but do nonetheless provide indications about life experience and the possible functional limitations these individuals may have faced. The cases used show at least that people had some reason to seek medical care there instead of staying at their relative’s residency, showing that disability lies in between the lines of impairment and temporal social perspectives.

 

One Story, One Person

The importance of micro/bio research for disability studies

By Sigurður Gylfi Magnússon

Abstract 

This chapter discusses the importance of doing microhistory approach when looking at the lives of disabled individuals and serves to contextualise the chapters to follow in this section. Micro historians emphasize the importance of placing small units of research within larger contexts. Instead, this chapter will consider whether this research focus excludes historical inquiry that has its focus on only one person, only one story. This scholarly research model provides the opportunity to slow down the research process, to examine each fragment of knowledge, and place it in the context of other knowledge possessed by the researcher. The basis of the slow ideology is precisely the opposite of this: not to seek to smooth out people’s rough surfaces, but to find opportunities to demonstrate the positive side of the fact that not everything, and everyone, is the same.

 

The Peculiar Attitude of the People

The life and social conditions of one “feebleminded” girl in the early 20th century

By Guðrún V. Stefánsdóttir, Sólveig Ólafsdóttir

Abstract 

Bíbí is the nickname of Bjargey Kristjánsdóttir, an Icelandic woman born in 1927, died in 1999. She grew up on a small farm called Berlin in Northern Iceland. After falling seriously ill before her first birthday, Bíbí was labelled “feebleminded” by her family and the local community. In her early years Bíbí was ostracized within the home and hidden from visitors. Bíbí wrote her own autobiography, keeping it secret from her family and neighbours. The autobiography evinces intelligence and insight into her life and circumstances. In this chapter, Bíbí’s childhood story is analysed based on two research disciplines: 1) critical disability studies and 2) microhistory. By connecting these two research fields, we will provide a new critical thinking about disability, as well as history. A feminist intersectionality framework is used to analyse Bíbí’s childhood story. The primary aim of this chapter is to shed light on the hidden history of people with intellectual disabilities, especially, girls in Iceland in the first half of the 20th century and, more specifically, to explore how social class, disability and gender intersected and impacted Bíbí’s childhood. We also reflect on how Bíbí’s autobiography appears as a counter narrative that resists negative historical beliefs and stereotypes of people with intellectual disabilities. For this purpose, in addition to Bíbí’s autobiography, we use various official records, such as church records, parish registers, and annual reports from her local community.

 

From a Life With a Different Body to a Recreated Folklore of Accentuated Difference

Sigríður Benediksdóttir versus Stutta-Sigga

By Eva Þórdís Ebenezersdóttir, Sólveig Ólafsdóttir

Abstract 

Disability understanding is ever changing through history. Stories, narratives, and histories, are important supportive threads in the tapestry that is disability understanding through time. Locating and evaluating historical understandings of disability is a task of unravelling varied strands of material where such understanding can be found. This chapter tells the story of Sigríður Benediksdóttir (1815–1900) drawn from folkloric legends, micro historical analysis of official documents and the usages of the only photograph that exists of Sigríður. The research exposes disabling elements formed and stored in narratives that affected her life and are still affecting the idea of her character and the understanding of disability. The approach developed here by combining disability studies, microhistory and folkloristics in a research design based on advocacy worldview, shows an intertwined and complex social play between the lived experience of difference and the living tradition of tales of difference. In the end a new thread is weaved into the tapestry and disability understanding of Sigríður story by retelling the narrative from place of empowerment and disability art.

 

Dis-/abling Absence

Absencepresence as matters that matter

By Arndís Bergsdóttir

Abstract 

This chapter engages with finding traces of disability in Icelandic museums, mostly the National Museum of Iceland, and how can we understand disability in the past from Museum Studies. The formal objective is twofold: To investigate the material collection and cataloguing system of the National Museum of Iceland between the years 1863–1936. The cataloguing system is created and operated on museological practices and nationalistic ideology (a cultural system) that create questions about presence and interpretation of histories and narratives of disability. The second objective is to gain insights that are the product of entangled knowledge making practices. Mining through the depositories of the National Museum of Iceland has yielded surprisingly meagre results, at least in terms of present material objects: the stuff that museum narratives are made of. What seems, however, to be abundant is absence – an absence of the lived lives and experiences of disabled people throughout the country’s histories. Therefore, this chapter engages with matters of absence in relation to museums and dis-/abled people’s histories.

 

Health, Healing, and the Social Body in Medieval Iceland

By Christopher Crocker, Yoav Tiros

Abstract 

This chapter concerns matters of health and healing in medieval Iceland, drawing particularly on the corpus of texts known as the Íslendingasögur (Sagas of Early Icelanders). In light of the harmful stigma often arising from perceptions of poor health and/or disability, this chapter first elaborates on the appropriateness of adopting a disability studies approach to this subject. Following this, it discusses how the Íslendingasögur show an awareness of both practical and theoretical understandings of the body and are concerned with how this knowledge was applied, as well as who had access to this knowledge and practice. Bodies or minds in the sagas perceived to be unhealthy, and consequently also their healthy counterparts, are understood and depicted not only as physiological phenomena but also as reflections of a variety of socio-cultural factors. The importance of healing and maintaining a healthy body takes on a social aspect and plays a crucial role in the formation (and dissolution) of a variety of interpersonal relationships.

 

Physical Impairment and the Spatial Dimensions of Everyday Life in Rural Households in Pre-industrial Iceland

By Ólafur Rastrick

Abstract 

A number of studies exploring disability and housing address the question of how design and layout of dwelling and home environment affects the quality of life of persons with physical impairments. While these studies mostly focus on contemporary predicaments this chapter addresses the social space of disability in the traditional rural household in Iceland. The discussion rests on the premises that pre-industrial Icelandic economy was almost entirely household-based till the late 1800s and that a substantial part of everyday life of the general population was confined to the social space of the farm. Drawing on case-based evidence the chapter explores the production of social space within the vernacular architecture of the turf-house with regard to social participation and activity of individuals with physical impairments. The chapter maintains that the spatial design of the turf-house and the plasticity of its architecture, in conjunction with specific socio-economic factors, effected a distinct dynamic relationship between space and “different” bodies. In conclusion the chapter argues that the social space of the turf-house did in significant ways have a less disabling effect on people with physical impairments than the spatial design of the urbanised society that supplanted it.

 

Guðmundur Bergþórsson as Creator and Creation: A Folk Narrative Study of a 17th Century Disabled Poet

By Alice Bower

Abstract 

This article seeks to examine the legend-making process in the case of the disabled poet Guðmundur Bergþórsson within the Icelandic vernacular narrative culture of the past three centuries. To this end, Guðmundur Bergþórsson’s life following his illness at the age of four will be examined through texts written both by the poet himself and his contemporaries, to enable a better understanding of the initial framework laid for later generations of storytellers. Consideration will be given to understandings of disability in pre-industrial Icelandic society and how they feature in narratives about Guðmundur’s life. A selection of texts collected by folklorists in the 19th and 20th centuries will then be subjected to critical analysis, as established motifs, such as maternal culpability, dark magic, and supernatural cures make an appearance in relation to Guðmundur’s disability. Guðmundur’s own artistic agency in narratives about his disability, or lack thereof, will be subjected to particular scrutiny as a living poet makes the transition to a memory and eventually folkloric figure in vernacular oral narrative.

 

Fictive Osteobiographical Narrative – The Missing Puzzle Pieces

ByHaraldur Thor Hammer Haraldsson

Abstract 

This chapter describes the process of building a fictive osteobiographical narrative, which is a method to address subjects which are unavailable or invisible in the current accessible research data. This method utilises various analytical results garnered from bioarchaeology, or the study of human skeletal remains, and all relevant literary sources, in conjunction with cautious interpretations on specific subjects not directly observed in the available data. Such unobservable data are for example physical pain, embodied experiences, and societal perceptions towards the different bodied, and vice versa. All this is used to construct a holistic and personal account of a particular human being via an easily accessible medium, a short, evidence based, and yet fictive story. This chapter goes through the process of piecing together the available data – the puzzle pieces, from both archaeological and historical sources, about a mature man who lived 1000 years ago, who was likely born paralysed in the left side of his body. This chapter will demonstrate, by utilizing the fictive osteobiographical narrative method, how the available data can showcase the visible, highlight the unobservable, and give voice to those who are long gone.

 

DOI https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003180180

 

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