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DFG - Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft Uni Siegen Uni Freiburg Humboldt Berlin Uni Fribourg Uni Basel Uni Strasbourg IGPP




'Okkulte' Phänomene zwischen Mediengeschichte, Kulturtransfer und Wissenschaft, 1770 bis 1970





Call for Papers

"The Birth of the Science of Religion: Out of the Spirit of Occultism"


International Conference at the University of Fribourg (CH)

February 14-16, 2018


Deadline September 15, 2017 - MORE




Call for Papers

"Cultural Techniques of Mind Reading"

Christian Kassung, Simone Natale, Laurens Schlicht
Institute for Cultural Science, Humboldt-University, Berlin
22th-23th March 2018


A wide range of technologies and techniques have been developed

throughout the nineteenth and twentieth century to generate

knowledge about what people feel, think, wish, or plan. To give just

a few examples, lie detectors employ physiological evidence to

establish if a subject is telling the truth or if s/he is lying;

interrogation techniques increasingly become the object of

scientific discourse, as the establishment of legal facts

(Tatbestandsdiagnostik) develops to investigate the objective facts;

subfields of psychology such as characterology are designed to

identify and recognize certain types; and recently computing

technologies employ algorithm and facial recognition software to

make inferences about feelings and mental states. Yet, also due to

disciplinary boundaries and to the different contexts in which these

have emerged and developed, relatively few attempts have been made

to address such diverse practices in conjunction and connection with

each other.  This conference aims to fill this gap. Employing the

concept of mind reading in a broad sense as designating any

technique that helps to create knowledge about people’s feelings and

states of mind, it aims to stimulate a critical debate about mind

reading techniques as forms of knowledge and in regard to their

political, social, and cultural dimension.


The conference’s objective is to promote a cross-disciplinary

debate, taking into account also areas of knowledge that are often

excluded from academic discourse, such as the occult practices of

parapsychology or the practices of local police officers and

marketing operatives. In this regard, speakers are encouraged to

engage with a set of questions connected to the historical,

epistemic and cultural dimensions of mind reading. Potential topics

include but are not limited to:


– A perspective from historical epistemology: how are the objects of

research on mind reading produced and shaped? What kinds of

epistemic techniques are employed to generate knowledge about

people’s state of mind, feelings, or about the veracity of their

statements? What kinds of intellectual and material resources are

used? What areas of knowledge were mobilized and how did experts

from different groups compete or cooperate?


– The design, production and use of technologies of mind reading: in

different contexts such as psychiatry and experimental psychology,

parapsychology and occultism, or among police officers, technical

devices such as the kymograph, the plethysmograph, the sphymograph,

the polygraph, and occultist devices like the planchette have been

developed to provide mechanical and allegedly objective means to

operate mind reading. How were these technologies developed, and how

did they inform the development of mind reading practices?  Which

functions did they have in terms of knowledge production and

dissemination, and to what extent were they related to the

development of discourses about technology, objectivity,

subjectivity, and science?


– The construction of subjectivity based on mind reading techniques:

in certain specific contexts, modes of subjectivity such as the

“psychopath” or the “neurasthenic” provided an important conceptual

framework both for science, the legal system, and for people’s

self-conception. How did the practices under consideration help to

create, consolidate, or change modes of subjectivity? For instance,

the role of psychiatrists and later psychologists as expert

witnesses in the court suggests that their disciplines may have had

an impact on the legal framework that defined how people are

classified as objects and subjects of juridical procedures. This

opens up the question of how such modes of subjectivity were shaped,

and in which societal fields they proved to be effective.


– The cultural and political dimensions of mind reading: how did

such technologies and practices contribute to re-shape political

regimes? Which political and cultural roles did mind reading

techniques play? How far and to what extent did mind reading have a

transformative impact in the political arena and on broad economic

and social phenomena?


We welcome proposals for papers from all disciplines connected to

one of the subject areas mentioned above. Those who wish to submit a

paper for the conference should send a summary of not more than 300

and a short CV by 1 October 2017 to Laurens Schlicht or Simone

Natale (laurens.schlicht@hu-berlin.de or S.Natale@lboro.ac.uk). We

have a limited budget for covering travelling and accomodation