Call for Papers: Wrapping and Unwrapping the Body – Archaeological and Anthropological Perspectives

A conference hosted by the Institute of Archaeology, UCL,
31-34 Gordon Square, London, WC1H 0PY,
20 – 21 May, 2010

This conference will bring together archaeologists and anthropologists to discuss the concept and practice of wrapping and unwrapping the body. Through this we hope to:
• To develop the idea of wrapping materials and wrapping as a process in archaeology.
• To develop a better understanding of cross cultural conceptions of the human body through understanding wrapping in particular time and space settings.
• To allow an exchange of ideas between archaeology and anthropology.
Conference Abstract
Wrapping the body, whether through clothing, in burial or other transforming processes, requires malleable materials that envelope the body. Such materials have properties and efficacy that act on the body or the perception of the body; they may be textiles, fibres, skins, feathers, fur, clay or thin metals. As a cultural and technical act, wrapping is a form of containment that can be used to conceal and reveal, camouflage or highlight, transform and exhibit, conserve and preserve. Wrapping offers the potential to interpret these materials in a cultural context by posing the questions; what is being covered and from who, what is being revealed and why? How does wrapping change the body through the permanent or temporary artificial modification of body shape? How is the dead body displayed and revealed through wrapping? What is the socio-cultural symbolism and meaning of wrapping and how does this change across time and space?
Although common to archaeologists and anthropologists, wrapping the body has different traditions of research. In archaeology, there is a strong tradition of the analysis and identification of the materials used for wrapping such as textiles, skins, clay and fibres, the analysis of clothing, the structure of garments and the use of dress fastenings. Archaeologists also explore the presentation of the dead, both in the past and in museum presentation. In anthropology, the strength of research is in the process and efficacy of wrapping. Anthropologists document wrapping products and the particular cognitive processes of wrapping and knowledge transmission through the daily and ritual uses of wrapping as masquerades and performance, burials, fashion, aesthetics and trading. Relationships between the body, wrapping and mutual transformations can be identified in processes such as wrapping in tattoos, for curing and healing and for shaping the body.
For archaeologists the combined approach with anthropology offers the opportunity to explore the wide variation in the process and interpretation of wrapping. For anthropologists the past perspective provides an understanding of change and innovation in the long term.
We invite researchers to submit papers for one of three sessions:
Session I: Wrapping as transformation process
Session II: Wrapping the living
Session III: Wrapping the dead
Deadline for 200 word abstract: 30th October 2009
Email abstracts and questions to:
Conference organisers: Dr Susanna Harris (Institute of Archaeology, UCL) & Dr Laurence Douny (Department of Anthropology, UCL).
Updates will be posted on:
Note on TAG session: the conference organisers are hosting a related session “Wrapping Objects” at TAG 2009, which will be held at Durham University17th-19th December 2009.

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