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Society of Classical Studies 155th Annual Meeting

JANUARY 4-5, 2023

Call for Papers for Panel Sponsored by the Society for Ancient Medicine

“(New) Materialities of Medicine”

Organized by Colin Webster (UC Davis) and Aileen Das (Michigan)

The new materialist turn in the humanities has returned focus to embodied experiences, physical infrastructure, and tangible things. Although many studies in ancient medicine remain resolutely bound to texts and philological methodologies, the orientation of healing towards a somatic object, however construed and conceptualized, has kept physical realities a perpetual, if sometimes uncomfortable, presence in the discipline. The publication of Lawrence Bliquez’s The Tools of Asclepius (Brill 2014) made the implements of Greek and Greco-Roman medicines more easily accessible to scholars, while Debby Sneed’s discussion of accessibility ramps in healing cults, or Jane Draycott’s surveys of prosthetics, have made materiality a vivid access point to ancient experiences of health, illness, and disability. How can continued work on recipes, and materia medica help expand entryways into the past? How can we rethink what materiality might mean within ancient theoretical frameworks that consider sympathy, celestial and solar “influences,” and the spoken/sung word within physical terms? What about votives, reliquaries, and other religious objects? How can we incorporate these articles of healing practice within broader material accounts of health and illness? The recent passing of Bruno Latour might also serve as call to reframe ancient medicine around non-human agents, such as plants, whose survival was ensured—and sometimes endangered—as a result of their bioactive properties. How can we revisit the relationship between theoretical and material things, especially since lived physical realities are themselves entangled with and constructed by conceptual, social, and linguistic frames, as new materialist approaches have revealed? Physical objects also cross borders and time periods, operating as proxies for the spread of ideas as well as indicators of lived practices. Can centering such objects help us cross cultural and linguistic boundaries to create new, productive, global histories of medicine? What about medical objects that help up cross temporal, as well as spatial boundaries? How should we think about implements that operated within multiple medical frameworks? Does materiality look different in Greece, Rome, Egypt, Assyro-Babylonia, Persia, India, or elsewhere? How should we think about material transmission of knowledge in the form of manuscripts alongside sustained and lived material practices? The organizers invite contributions on any aspect of the materials and materiality of ancient medicine, with special interest in papers that present reflect on how their approaches help reframe older theoretical issues, or present vivid illustrations of how material objects can form the center of investigations into medicines of the past.

Abstracts must be no more than 500 words, not including bibliography, and should contain the following information:
• a clear initial statement of purpose,
• a brief explanation of the abstract's relationship to the previous literature on the topic, including direct citations of any important literature
• a summary of the argumentation
• some examples to be used in the argumentation.
The abstract should make it clear that the paper is suitable for oral presentation within a 20-minute the time limit. For full details, please see the Guidelines for Authors of Abstracts.
Please send anonymized abstracts (no personal details in the abstract or accompanying document) by email to Colin Webster (UC Davis) at by March, 17, 2023. The organizers will review all submissions and communicate their decision by March 27, 2023.

Works Cited
Bliquez, Lawrence (2014). The Tools of Asclepius: Surgical Instruments in Greek and
Roman Times. Boston/Leiden: Brill.
Draycott, Jane (2019). Prostheses in Antiquity. London/New York: Routledge.
Sneed, D. (2020). The architecture of access: Ramps at ancient Greek healing sanctuaries.
Antiquity, 94 (376), 1015-1029.