Birth of the Vampire

posted by ush on 2009/05/20 00:11

[ Paralipomena ]

Michael Pickering, Ph.D candidate an der School of historical Studies, University of Melbourne, gives a "Vortrag im Josephinum": The Birth of the Vampire: Cultural Transformations of the Evil Dead.

Ort: Lesesaal des Josephinum, (Währinger Straße 25, A – 1090 Wien)
Zeit: 28. Mai 2009, 18.00 c.t.
++43/ 1/ 40160/ 26000


Bodies are ever-present. We live with our bodies, we observe our bodies – both the interiors and exteriors – and we observe the bodies of others. The meanings that we attribute to human flesh and blood, however, are anything but culturally constant. To paraphrase Elizabeth Murray, violence may be done to the body, and such violence, when legitimized by a powerful authority such as the state, serves to emphasize and re-emphasize the truth claims of the dominant discourse. By investigating reports of bodies believed to be those of vampires in eighteenth-century Serbia, I hope to enunciate some of the ways in which the vampire was constructed within, and ultimately became a product of, learned discourse in the so-called Age of Reason. My research takes me to the frontiers of the Hapsburg Monarchy in the winter of 1731-32, when Austrian military officials sanctioned the exhumation and destruction of bodies found to be in an uncorrupted state. The reports issued from the medical investigations of these cases quickly found their way into scholarly documents, initiating the so-called vampire debate of the 1730s. My general inquiry, I hope, serves to contextualize this temporally localized debate within a broader structural shift that sees the body change from a conduit of supernatural knowledge to a site of scientific knowledge. It is perhaps for this reason that long after the scholarly vampire debate subsided, and Serbia had been once more absorbed into the Ottoman Empire, that reports of the burning of dead bodies in Moravia ignited such a heated response on the part of the political establishment in 1750s Vienna.

Biographical Notes

Michael Pickering is a Ph.D candidate in the School of historical Studies, University of Melbourne. In October 2006 he submitted his Honours thesis on ghost beliefs in seventeenth-century England at the University of Queensland, following which he was awarded a summer fellowship at the Centre for the History of European Discourses. In March 2007 he commenced work on his doctoral dissertation on vampirism in eighteenth-century Europe at the University of Melbourne. His research interests pertain to the ways in which cultures inscribe bodies with meaning, and in turn, the ways in which it is possible to consider bodies to be sites of knowledge production. Michael has been conducting research in Vienna on the emergence of vampire accounts in the eighteenth-century Habsburg Monarchy. A resident of Melbourne, Australia, Michael naturally enjoys everything related to the culinary arts.


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The workshop Balkan Studies - quo vadis? is held on April 25, 2009.

Venue: HS, Inst. Slawistik, AAKH / Campus
The programme is to be found here, the abstracts are available as Balkan Studies 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and as pdf.
Ort: HS, IOG, AAKH, Spitalgasse 2, 1090 Wien
Zeit: 2. bis 4. April 2009
Veranstalter: IOG, Kk.rev
Funding: Fritz-Thyssen-Stiftung, Köln

Programm, Abstracts (.pdf)
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