Organization: Prof. Dr. med. Ulrike Gehring (Art History) Simon Karstens (History of the Early Modern Period) Christian Rollinger (Ancient History)
The conference aims to facilitate interdisciplinary exchange between representatives of nautical and technological history, ancient, medieval and early modern history, art history, and historical literary studies. It is only by adopting a trans-epochal perspective that the dependencies and interactions between individual figurations of risks and their mastery, as well as the continuities and breaks in risk imaginations across historical periods can become evident. Thus, special emphasis will be put on receptions of classical culture and knowledge in the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, particularly as far as the alleged break between medieval and early modern/Renaissance scientific and heuristic practices are concerned.
The conference will address attempts and strategies of mastering (or at least minimising) risk factors associated with maritime travel, as evident in textual and visual sources from the ancient world to the Early Modern Age. In this context, ‘risk’ should be taken as including empirically detectable, prima facie ‘objective’ risk factors (e.g. elemental, climatic, and meteorological conditions) as well as imagined, ‘irrational’ ones that are rooted in contemporary cultural and religious notions. Consequently, strategies of mastering or minimising these risks are not limited to nautical, technological or economical aspects of prevention but must necessarily also include cultural and religious strategies to describe, analyse, and categorise – and thus to ‘master’ and overcome – maritime risks and dangers of varying nature.
The conference will include three sections:
Risk theory and knowledge bases:
This section will attempt to present a theory and definition of risk that is dependent on the continued (or interrupted) diachronic co-presences of ancient and medieval/early modern nautical and scientific knowledge and maritime action horizons.
Maritime risks and their appearance in text and image:
This section will present case studies across historical epochs and scientific disciplines. Case studies will focus on maritime dangers and risks as presented by the four classical elements of wind, water, fire, and earth (the latter understood, e.g., as riffs or shallows).
Mastering maritime risk:
The third section will present strategies and nautical, technological, or cultural innovations developed in order to gain mastery of maritime risks. This may include cartographical information, geographical knowledge, technological advances in navigation, but also prima facie ‘irrational’ religious actions designed to avert a fate associated with maritime travels. Here, as in every section, special emphasis should be laid on the presence, evolution, or absence of ancient knowledge in medieval and early modern thought.
The organizers ask you to send a short abstract via e-mail in the amount of not more than 300 words before 15 March 2018. Applications from junior scientists are explicitly requested. Individual contributions should be aimed at a total length of 30 minutes. Travel and accommodation costs can be taken over. A publication of the conference contributions is planned. For further questions please contact the organizers. Publication of the conference proceedings is planned.