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International Conference: "Gloom Goes Global: Towards a Transcultural History of Melancholy since 1850", 2-4 October 2014

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This interdisciplinary conference focuses on the study of melancholy as a historical- anthropological phenomenon and scientific medical concept from a transcultural perspective. It will discuss influential narratives and perceptions of gloom as articulated in various national and cultural contexts – in Europe, Russia and Asia – since the middle of the 19th century, and will examine their mutual penetration and transformation. The central question concerns the extent to which the paradigm shift from a perception of melancholy shaped by natural philosophy, literature and art to a psychopathological condition conceptualised using scientific terminology can be described as a global phenomenon.

The production of certain concepts and ontologies of melancholy in a specific historical context is to be understood as a dynamic cross-border process in which “traditional”, more or less established, forms of knowledge and science – among them medical systems – are affected, challenged or closely intertwined by “wandering ideas” in the sense of a “circulation of knowledge” or “culture on the move”.

The key concern of this conference is to discuss competing concepts of melancholy and their mutual penetration and transformation against the backdrop of cultural flows, in particular flows of knowledge and science between Europe, Russia and Asia. In concrete terms, this conference seeks books or texts and ideas (medical and scientific as well as philosophical or social) produced in one cultural context and transmitted or transferred to another, translated from one to the other language, or adapted, changed, transformed, etc. Further, the conference addresses the people and institutions as well as agents and brokers involved in or affected by these kinds of transcultural flows and cross-border activities.

Last but not least, this conference focuses on global flows of cosmopolitan psychiatry and the circulation of concepts of mental illnesses such as melancholy or depression and the ontologies that they produced in different historical and cultural contexts.

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Conference Poster

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