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CALL. 01.08.2018: Ambiguities: Concepts of Frames and Affordances in the Study of Ancient Visual Cu




LUGAR/LOCATION/LUOGO: Freie Universität (Berlin, Germany)

ORGANIZADOR/ORGANIZER/ORGANIZZATORE: Elisabeth Günther, M.A.Prof. Dr. Johanna Fabricius

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Women in burqas, or empty seats? Last year, an otherwise unexciting photo provoked a highly emotional debate in social networks: the Norwegian journalist Johan Slåttavik posted a picture showing several empty bus seats on a nationalist Facebook page. Several users then falsely interpreted the image as showing a group of women wearing burqas, fuelling a discussion about a general burqa ban. This incident shows in a startling way how viewers ascribe meaning to a photo depending on their own prejudices – and how difficult it is for an objective audience to comprehend or reconstruct this process. The influence of images on public opinion and the framework of such reception processes have been discussed intensively, providing a fruitful stimulus for visual studies in the field of archaeology. Nonetheless, archaeological research usually separates between preconditions of production on one side, perception processes and reader-response on the other side: it takes into account either only the producers (painters, sculptors, etc.) and their intentions/messages, or focusses on reception processes without considering the economic, technical, ideological or socio-cultural frameworks of the workshops. The conference will try to mediate between the two extreme perspectives – focusing either on frames of production or reception. In this, it will follow two different theoretical approaches: (1) Frame theories according to Fillmore/Busse/Ziem: frames are structures of knowledge representation. They link single components or elements of images with background knowledge of the viewers. Frames interact with other frames, and in complementing or contradicting each other they contribute to a visual narrative. This means that images do not carry only one, alleged "correct" meaning, but can evoke multiple narrations and possess an inherent ambiguity. (2) The affordance concept according to Gibson/Knappett: objects offer a range of possibilities as to how their consumers may use them, depending on their materiality and shape. Accordingly, images as polyvalent semantic systems and complex signs may offer several possible interpretations to the viewer. The reactions and interpretations of the image depend on the composition and the medial characteristics of the object as well as on the interaction between viewer and image or viewer and object respectively. The aim of the conference is to investigate the proposed ambiguities and multiple readings of ancient images based on frame theories and the affordance concept. It will discuss the role that ambiguities play for reception processes and the extent to which affordance may presuppose ambiguities. The following questions are of particular interest: • Which preconditions and conditions lead to divergent readings of images? • Should we understand ambiguities as discrepancies in the semantic vocabulary of producers and recipients, i.e. "misunderstandings", or do producers use discrepancies deliberately as (narrative) strategies? • Do producers use different strategies to apply intentional ambiguities to descriptive and narrative images? • Under which conditions were intentional ambiguities comprehensible for recipients in antiquity? • Which analytic methods help to identify intentional or non-intentional ambiguities? • How do contexts of reception constrain ambiguities, e.g. context of use, context of presentation, sociocultural context of the recipient, economic or political-ideological framework of production and reception? • Do producers employ ambiguities to address different audiences, as postulated repeatedly? • Do we find contradictory and broken frames in ambiguous narratives, and what are their effects? Our Keynote Speakers, Prof. Dr. Reinhard Bernbeck (FU Berlin, Institute for Near Eastern Archaeology), Dr. Habil. Stephanie Geise (University of Münster, Department of Communication) und Prof. Dr. Robert Kirstein (University of Tübingen, Institute for Classical Philology und GRK 1808 Ambituity – Production and Reception) will introduce us into the concept of affordance, frame theories and ambiguities of narration. Thus, they will provide new perspectives on ambiguous images and an impetus for the study of ancient visual culture. Those interested in presenting a paper (not longer than 25-30 minutes) should submit an abstract of 300-500 words and a short CV to Elisabeth Guenther ( by 01 August 2018. Unfortunately, funding for speakers’ travel and accommodation expenses cannot be guaranteed at present. We intend to publish selected papers within the series "Topoi. Berlin Studies of the Ancient World". The conference is part of the research groups C-1 ( und C-4 ( of the Excellence Cluster TOPOI. Organizers: Elisabeth Günther, M.A. Prof. Dr. Johanna Fabricius

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