Migration and the Politics of the Deep Past – online/London, 19-20 May 23

Imagining Lost Origins: Migration and the Politics of the Deep Past

Online & River Room, King’s College London, The Strand, London WC2R 2LS, May 19–20, 2023

Culture has always been on the move, but the notion that culture is itself a product of movement is relatively recent. Beginning in the late nineteenth century, scholars hypothesised that the world’s cultures developed not by linear evolution, but through migration, invasion, conquest, trade and exchange. Diffusionism became a master paradigm across several disciplines. The fascination and concern with how movement had shaped cultures historically reflected the anxieties of a time that witnessed more global migrations of people than ever before. Further, the modern quest for lost origins was (and is) inherently entangled in contemporary debates about the rights to land and resources.

This conference explores the relation between scientific and artistic imaginings of prehistoric migrations. To map cultural diffusion is also to theorize the relationship between bodies, place, art, and innovation. When investigating societies who have left no written records, the visual has a dual role: it is both the means by which these cultures are reconstructed, and the tool by which knowledge about them is disseminated. We ask how artists and scholars influenced one another in reconstructing lost origins, and probe the ways that these images were embedded in contemporary debates about race and migration.

Registration details and programme here. Thanks to Adalbert Saurma for the link.

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