[Spring school] Audiovisuals and internet archives: Histories of healthy bodies in the 21st century

1 4 avril 2019

Ecole de printemps du projet ERC BodyCapital

The next ERC BodyCapital Spring school will be held in Strasbourg 1-4 April 2019.

Audiovisuals and internet archives: Histories of healthy bodies in the 21st century

Université de Strasbourg, Strasbourg, France


The Audiovisuals and internet archives: Histories of healthy bodies in the 21st century spring school invites young researchers to engage in four days of intensive discussion and hands-on activities on the relation between the history of the healthy body, body politics, and the Internet at the turn of the twenty-first century (roughly 1990s-2010). The spring school will take a transnational perspective and focus on developments in Germany, France and Great Britain.

Participants will be introduced to internet archive resources, as well as to history of twenty-first century health issues. The aim of the spring school is to equip young researchers with the knowledge to begin interrogating the Internet as an object and as a source of historical investigation, with a particular focus on audiovisuals. The participants will be confronted with largely unchartered waters and will navigate alongside historians of the Internet and historians of health, as new research tools are developed and tested for working with new/recent media technologies. What multimedia resources were in use in the early years of the Internet (i.e., graphic and administrative technologies)? What modes of configuration were used or preferred (text and image, hypertext uses, video)? How is the Internet used as a historical source? How does one use web archives in historical research? Can web archives be used to trace an audiovisual history?

The spring school is organized as part of the research project “The Healthy Self as Body Capital: Individuals, Market-Based Societies, and Body Politics in Visual Twentieth Century Europe (BodyCapital)” funded by the European Research Council (ERC) and led by Christian Bonah (University of Strasbourg) and Anja Laukötter (Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin).

The ERC BodyCapital research centres on audio-visual representations of the body in the twentieth century, up to the birth of YouTube in 2005. BodyCapital considers the birth of the Internet as the point at which film and television were succeeded as modes of mass communication, which presented a new space for democratised content and new forms of expression and sociability. At the forefront of the Internet are the broad potential of multimedia and the logic of networking practices of mass audience. It has consequently opened up a new field of distribution within and responding to known structures (institutions, companies, traditional media) whilst reconfiguring relationships between the mass media and its publics. In this sense, the Internet has established a mode of interactivity, for example inspiring individual initiatives and the creation of personal sites.The ERC project researchers, in Berlin and Strasbourg, are working on a comparative history between Germany, France and Great Britain and the transformative processes that led to a shift from comprehensive healthcare in the “welfare state” model to new ideas of human capital and the healthy body as a form of individual capital. In particular, they focus on the economic factors driving these transformations. The primary source material is visual mass media, from historical non-fiction films to television shows and internet videos. Amateur films are additionally considered, offering a point of comparison and potentially reveals a different medial logic.

Working from the hypothesis that our understanding of the body in an era of neoliberal environments and structures is linked with new creations of subjects, the project aims to historicize the developments that have led to this. It asks how the rise of the “healthy self” can be better described and historically situated, and inquires into the social, political, and economic contexts that have contributed to and furthered this development.

The project focuses on four topics:

-       The history of food and nutrition;

-       The history of exercise and sports;

-       The history of sexuality and reproduction;

-       The history of dependence and addiction (medicine, drugs, alcohol).


In building the historical foundation of the Internet era in the BodyCapital perspective, we will encounter new modes of representations and practices of the body that the Internet favored: webcam uses, first artist creations, reuse of traditional contents (photographs and films), amongst others.

The spring school includes talks and workshops with experts, a field trips, and film viewings. Further, the spring school will benefit from collaboration with the French Institut National de l’Audiovisuel (INA). Confirmed speakers include Niels Brügger and Valérie Schafer. Participants will also present on their own research projects.



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