“And then they were Bodies: Medieval Royalties, from DNA Analysis to a Nation’s Identity”

I am very happy to announce a brand new inter-disciplinary project, focused on the exploration of political bodies: ‘Rex nunquam moritur. Comparative Approaches to Political Theologies from the Middle Ages to the Present’. The project is coordinated by two PhD students from the University of Warsaw, Karolina Mroziewicz and Aleksander Sroczyński, and funded by the Ministry of Research and Higher Education of the Republic of Poland. As presented on its lovely website, the aim of the research will be:

“to propose a broad and versatile description of the theme indicated in the title , which eludes a sharp and universally acceptable definition. The team of fourteen PhD students and recent PhD holders from different academic environments, representing such different fields of humanities as anthropology, philology, history, philosophy and art history, was brought to life in order to analyze different manifestations of political theologies in the pre-modern and contemporary world. The scope of our research extends from the formation and contestation of the political bodies in the early medieval Astur-Leonese monarchy to the political functions of today’s social media.”

My own contribution will be focused on the use of kings bodies in constructing contemporary historical narartives: And then they were Bodies: Medieval Royalties, from DNA Analysis to a Nation’s Identity

On 28th of June 2012, the tomb of Vladislav Vlaicu (1364-1377), one of the first rulers of Wallachia was opened by a team of scientists, who took a left hand phalanx, a molar and a right metatarsal bone. The action was part of a multi-disciplinary project called GENESIS (Genetic Evolution: New Evidences for the Study of Interconnected Structures. A Biomolecular Journey around the Carpathians from Ancient to Medieval Times, 2013-2015), Romania.[..] Thus, history and archaeology are viewed as subjective discourses regarding the past, and it is time for an “objective”, modern science to test these stories (through aDNA, genetic or isotopic analysis). In this context, the body of Vladislav Vlaicu becomes very important, along other Romanian princes’ bodies, because it is expected to provide an “objective” testimony regarding his ethnic origin.

The question that such an endeavour raises is: what does it mean to be Romanian? What are the epistemological consequences of defining a ruler’s identity in biologic or rather cultural terms? What is a legitimate way of writing a nation’s history? My intention is to explore such issues, to see how the princes’ bodies are turned into a political matter. Modernity has brought to the fore the concept of the body understood as a relative concept, open to change and historically, culturally, and socially constituted. Concepts such as the foundations of the nation and its identity, ethnicity, the ownership over a territory, and the power of historical accounts are also brought forth by such a project. In this case, they all revolve around rulers’ bodies, turning them into bones of contention.”

Source featured image: http://rexnunquammoritur.al.uw.edu.pl


2 thoughts on ““And then they were Bodies: Medieval Royalties, from DNA Analysis to a Nation’s Identity”

  1. Cheers! I have actually just been to the first workshop in the project, and I will definitely keep you updated on the progress! Atm I am trying to get a new post finished- I’ve been terrible with wrting up for the blog

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