SYMP: The Body in History / The Body in Space @ Harvard, March 24-26, 2011

Home – Cambridge Talks V: The Body in History / The Body in Space.

The history of the body has been a locus of prolific research in the past several decades, engaging scholars from disciplines as diverse as history of medicine, cultural history, literature, sociology, and anthropology. The body’s experience of health and sickness, histories of the senses, changing standards of civility, the body as political instrument – these and other approaches have recovered the centrality of the human subject in studies of the past and present. Yet current scholarship on the body often relegates issues of space to the background, treating it as a neutral setting against which bodies interact. Conversely, treatments of the body and its history are scant in disciplines focused on space and the built environment. In fields like architectural history, geography, and urban studies, the presence of the body is taken for granted and its history rarely emerges as a critical contribution to the history of space.

This conference aims to question such a facile body-space relationship by positing that the history of the body must also be a history of the body in space, and that the history of spatial practices must involve a history of the body. By bringing together scholars from a range of disciplines, we hope to interrogate the material specificity of architecture and the body through a range of questions linking the two:

  • What role does the built environment play in our understandings of the body?
  • How have past regulatory practices of the body influenced the design of spaces?
  • How can we reclaim human agency while acknowledging the limits imposed on the body by spatial constructs?

This conference will feature an eclectic mix of performance art, video presentations, and academic papers. Participants include: Linda Nash, David Serlin, Annmarie Adams, Christina Cogdell, Janet Beizer, Priya Srinivasan, Andrew Herscher, Nell Breyer, Carey Foster, and others. Please visit for a full schedule of events.

“The Body in History / The Body in Space” is generously supported by Harvard Graduate School of Design, the Provost Fund for Student Collaboration, the Department of Architecture and Urban Planning, the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, the Harvard Graduate Student Council, the Program in the History of American Civilization, the Department of the History of Science, and the Department of Anthropology.


Author: Camara Dia Holloway

I am an art historian specializing in early twentieth century American art with particular focus on the history of photography, race and representation, and transatlantic modernist networks. I earned my PhD at Yale University in the History of Art Department. Besides my leadership role as the Founding Co-Director of the Association for Critical Race Art History (ACRAH), I am recognized for my expertise on African American Art, particularly African American Photography, and as a seasoned consultant for exhibitions, museum collections, and symposia/lectures planning.

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