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Call for Papers: Otiose Leisure and the Body

Conference organized by the CRC 1015 “Otium”

October 14–16, 2019, University of Freiburg

The theme of this conference is difficult to translate into English. The German word Muße, which we render into English with the Latin otium, denotes time we spend leisurely – without having to focus on productivity – but which feels fruitful and productive.

Experiencing otium is firmly connected to bodily sensations and bodily memories. A wide range of techniques of the body have been recommended as potential pathways to otium – from strolling through town, to meditating, to simply standing still for a moment. Other phenomena are instead presumed to prevent otium. Once people experience otium, the experience is often coded as a somewhat disembodied phenomenon: thoughts wander, perceptions change, critique and insight become possible.

Against this backdrop, this international conference aims to contribute to a nuanced understanding of the relation between otium and the body. Contributions could be presentation of empirical examples of this relation, development of theories on otium and the body, and discussions regarding methods of research on the topic. The individual contributions may focus on one of these fields, but should be able to relate to the others as well. A main objective of this conference is to offer various perspectives on the physical body anchored in the humanities, social sciences and cognitive science, and to further advance the dialogue between these disciplines. This interdisciplinary exchange is equally relevant for the peer Collaborative Research Centre 948 “Heroes – Heroizations – Heroisms”. The conference will thus provide a platform to delve into the central methodological questions of two different but associated research clusters.

Empirical examples of the relation between otium and the body abound in all epochs and regions. From the bodily experience of music or dancing, to the flow of running, from the embonpoint of the indolent Oblomov to the self-denial of anchorites, otium is empirically and conceptually linked to bodily practices. For the conference, historical perspectives are as relevant as contributions from literary studies, psychology or the social sciences.

Describing such practices in detail, realizing their variability, and understanding more clearly how actors see the connections between otium and the body form the necessary basis for developing theories of the relation between otium and the body. Can otium be induced by bodily techniques, or is otium itself a technique of the body? To what degree is the experience of otium corporeal? How does our relation to our body change during experiencing otium? Are experiences of otium inscribed into our bodies and do they consequently change our bodily habitus? Are otium and heroism linked through heroic representations of otium (e.g. in scholars, ascetics or athletes), or are heroes and anti-heroes represented as defying the norms of performance societies? Such questions can both guide the choice of empirical examples and inspire conceptual discussions.

Any attempt to answer such questions immediately generates methodological difficulties. Which methods allow us to gain access to the bodily aspects of experiences of otium? How can we put bodily experiences into words? How do different disciplines address bodily knowledge, the bodily nature of our being in the world, and the entangled methodological challenges?

These three major fields will serve as common ground through the conference and bring together a broad spectrum of empirical phenomena and disciplinary approaches into dialogue with each other.

Though the official language of the conference is German, talks in English are nonetheless welcome.

Abstracts for 30 minutes’ talks (one page, approx. 500 words) and a short CV should be submitted by Feb. 28, 2019 to Dr. Tilman Kasten (). For further questions, please refer to Dr. Marion Mangelsdorf (

More information about the research centres: and