CFA: Is there a Middle Eastern Body? (IUAES-Annual Conference of the Commission of the Middle East) deadline 11th June together w PD Dr. Claudia Liebelt

I would like to draw your attention to a panel that I am currently co-organising with my colleague Claudia Liebelt (Associate Professor in Social Anthropology, University of Bayreuth), as part of the IUAES-Annual Conference of the Commission of the Middle East (CME, see The conference will be hosted by the Orient Institute Istanbul and take place online, via zoom, between the 7–9 August 2021

Our panel is titled Is There a Middle Eastern Body?, and we will select 5-6 papers for two 90-minutes sessions. 

We intend to publish the outcomes of the panel in the form of a special journal issue, possibly in the Anthropology of the Middle East, which is issued by the CME. 




“Depersonalisierung” (from 1st shooting series) by Merve Şahinol (copyright, all rights reserved).


Is there a Middle Eastern Body?

Chairs: PD Dr. Claudia Liebelt (Associate Professor in Social Anthropology, University of Bayreuth) and Dr. Melike Şahinol (Senior Research Fellow, Orient Institute Istanbul)

Discussant: Dr. Sertaç Sehlikoglu (Senior Research Associate, Institute for Global Prosperity, UCL)

The human body can be explored as both a product and an active producer of society. On the one hand, media images, public discourses and social norms affect the ways in which we perceive, shape and enact our bodily existence. On the other, human bodies are a major tool for world-making, fundamental to our understanding not only of our selves, but also of the ways we conceptualize our material interrelatedness and more-than-human being in the world. Ever since the bodily turn in the social sciences, a plethora of concepts have theorized the human body at the junction between individual and society, self and other. For example, in concepts such as the “flexible body” (Martin 1994), the “bugged body” (Lachmund 1997), or the “body multiple” (Mol 2002) scholars have reflected on the plasticicity, materiality and relationality of the human body. Within Middle Eastern studies, the body has been studied in relation to ethical formation (Mahmood 2005), sensorial cultivation (Hirschkin 2006) and more recently, as a site and source of leisure (Deeb and Harb 2014) as well as desire (Sehlikoğlu 2021). Drawing on anthropological research on aesthetic body modification (Liebelt 2019) and neuroscientific cyborg studies (Şahinol 2016), in this panel we wish to reflect on the role of cultural, historical and political constellations and peculiarities for bodily practices and beings from an interdisciplinary perspective. Critical of earlier orientalist assumptions, we wish to provocatively ask: Is there a Middle Eastern body?


We are particularly interested in contributions that highlight the materiality and aesthetics of socio-culturally produced bodies, their public infrastructures and interconnections with other living and non-living beings. We welcome studies that reflect on body practices in different social and cultural settings, shedding light on heterogeneous ways of embodied being and doing in different localities in and across the Middle East. We especially welcome studies that draw on recent empirical or ethnographic research in the region.


We invite papers dealing with but not limited to the following questions: 

  • Are there overarching body politics that affect persons of different genders, social positions, physical capabilities, ethnic identities and religious denominations across the region? 
  • What kind of bodily practices are conceptualized as “Middle Eastern” and how do various social actors deal with racialized images of Middle Eastern bodies and bodily capabilities? 
  • What kind of body images, trends and fashions circulate among different social groups in the region and how are they publicly debated, enacted and presented? 
  • How are bodies cared for or neglected? 
  • What are the public infrastructures in support of bodily being and what kind of bodies are supported or excluded from these? 

Please send an abstract of about 300 words, with a short bio to: and

Deadline for abstracts: 11th June, 2021.



Conference information:

Online via Zoom, August 7-9, 2021
(Zoom link and password will be sent in late July)
Chair of the Commission: Dr Soheila Shahshahani
Executive Secretary of the Commission: Dr Farniyaz Zaker

Hosted by the Orient Institute Istanbul
Technical Hosting: Dr. Katja Rieck