20 November 2006

Minds, Bodies, Machines

Call for Papers: Minds, Bodies, Machines

This interdisciplinary conference, convened by Birkbeck’s Centre for Nineteenth-Century Studies, University of London, in partnership with the Department of English, University of Melbourne, and software developers Constraint Technologies International (CTI), will take place on 6-7 July 2007 at Birkbeck College, Malet Street, Bloomsbury.

The two-day conference will explore the relationship between minds, bodies and machines in the long nineteenth century. Recent research on the Enlightenment’s frontier technologies has established that era’s preoccupation with developing machinery that could simulate the cognitive and physiological processes of human beings. According to some critics, however, these Promethean ambitions were shelved during the nineteenth century, when the android as artefact was relocated to the realm of the imagination, where it became a threatening figure. According to this reading, the android as scientific project and a figure of possibility only re-emerges in our own era. The aim of this conference is to test this claim by exploring the continuities and discontinuities in the imagining of the human/machine interface in the nineteenth and twenty-first centuries.

The conference organisers – Hilary Fraser (Birkbeck), Deirdre Coleman (Melbourne) and Paul Hyland (CTI) – invite proposals for papers that examine the intersection of minds, bodies and machines during the long nineteenth century. Topics include: the virtual and the real; technologies of the sublime; evolution and machines; techniques of communication; technologies of travel; medical technology; miniaturisation; self-reproduction; and spiritualism.

The conference programme will include plenary addresses, seminars and workshops. Confirmed speakers include: Dr Caroline Arscott, Professor Jay Clayton, Professor Steven Connor, Professor Iain McCalman, Professor Peter Otto, Professor Kevin Warwick and Dr Elizabeth Wilson.

A selection of papers arising from this conference will be published in the online journal 19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century.

Abstracts for papers of 20 minutes, as well as details of expected audio-visual needs, should be submitted no later than 28 FEBRUARY 2007. Please send proposals by email to submissions@mindsbodiesmachines.org.