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Heroes and Things. Heroisches Handeln und Dinglichkeit


The discussion in history and the cultural sciences usually views heroic figures and their deeds as manifestations of human autonomy and agency. The conference "Heroes and Things" confronts this viewpoint with the question of how the heroic is intertwined with material objects across various epochs and cultures. The goal is to gain a new perspective on assumptions concerning heroic agency and inquire into the relevance of current theoretical approaches (such as actor network theory, assemblage theory, new materialism) for discussions on the heroic as well as on the challenge the heroic presents for the 'material turn'.

By virtue of their physicality, heroic figures themselves have a material dimension that influences their actions. But the capacity for heroic agency is also linked to the world of things and determined in a positive and a negative sense by artefacts and other objects, technologies, and media as well as their structures. The basic thesis of the conference is that the capacity for heroic agency manifests itself in charged assemblages of human and nonhuman protagonists, in the complex interactions between heroic figures and the influence of things they make use of, take action against, or even fuse with: from Hercules' club to 'machine heroes'.