Cross-Post: Call for Papers “Fight Books in Comparative Perspective” November 2017
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Categories: Ancient, Medieval, Modern

Cross-Post: Call for Papers “Fight Books in Comparative Perspective” November 2017

Sixt Wetzler of the Deutsches Klingenmuseum, Solingen, is organizing a conference which some of my readers might be interested in. It will take place in Germany on 9 and 10 November 2017.

St. Martin Conference is the title of a new series of academic conferences held at Deutsches Klingenmuseum (German Blade Museum) in Solingen, Germany. It will be dedicated to topics from the field of edged weapons: their production and cultural history, the schools and traditions of their use, and their reception in modern culture, among others.

The first St. Martin Conference on 9./10. NOV 2017 will be discussing “Fight Books in Comparative Perspective”. From the famous wrestling scenes of the cemetery site of Beni Hasan in Egypt to self-defense manuals of the globalized martial arts world of the 21st century: The depiction and description of body techniques of combat is a phenomenon that can be witnessed throughout history and worldwide. For several hundred years, such techniques have been laid down by image and/or word in a huge number of fight books from (at least) Europe, India, and East Asia, and were largely, but not exclusively concerned with the use of edged weapons.

The books are among the most significant and informative artifacts of martial arts culture, and their interpretation is an important task for martial arts studies.

The conference wants to open a comparative, multidisciplinary approach towards these artifacts. Scholars from all relevant fields (martial arts studies, literary studies, linguistics, art history, cultural studies, Asian studies, history, sports and movement sciences, among others) are invited to discuss topics that could include:

• Materiality: What can the material properties of a fight book reveal about its intended function and actual use?
• Depiction of technique: What visual strategies are applied to render movement into image?
• Textuality: Which terminologies and forms of text are chosen to convey the techniques to the reader?
• Weaponry: For which weapons are the described techniques intended, and what does that reveal about their audience?
• Martial arts context: What do the books tell us about the martial arts world they are part of?
• Wider historical context: Which role do the fight books play in the society they belong to, and how do they reflect it?

In the last years, questions concerning fight books have mainly been discussed on the basis of medieval and early modern European examples. The conference explicitly wants to widen the scope, both geographically and historically. To this purpose, a minimal working definition of “fight book” shall encompass all kinds of media that try to systematize and/or transmit body techniques for close quarter combat. Contributions are welcome on all types of relevant source ‘texts’, from the abovementioned Egyptian murals to modern, digital media. They can either focus on a single text (or family of texts), or contrast sources from different times and places with each other. The goal of the two days will be to integrate the presented studies into a common perspective. During the conference, the Klingenmuseum will exhibit its rich collection of fight books, the oldest of which date from the mid-16th century.

The deadline for proposals (a 300 word abstract plus a 100 word biography) is 31 May 2017. For more information see

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