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Vanhaesebrouck, Karel

Vanhaesebrouck, Karel


Karel Vanhaesebrouck, born in Kortrijk, Belgium, in 1978. Ph.D. from Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense. Chair of Theatre and Performance Studies at Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB).

Descartes Theme Group Fellow (Jan, Feb, March 2017)

The Anatomical Theatre as a Site of Knowledge and Commodification

Research Question

During my stay at NIAS I would like to analyse how the anatomical theatre contributed to the production and dissemination of medical knowledge and how, at the same time, it functioned as a fully-fledged theatrical event, as it turned from a private educational practice to a public event in the course of the 16th century. The aim is to understand how dissection as a performative and spectacular activity reorganized the cultural ‘map’ of knowledge while at the same time functioning as a commodity on a rapidly expanding market of spectacular activities.

Project Description

My project on the anatomical theatre will focus on the dead body as site of knowledge but also as a locus for a complex ritual focusing on the renegotiation of religious frameworks being increasingly challenged. Dissection not only aimed at disassembling the human body, it also investigated and showed how that same body is (culturally) constructed. It aimed at showing something while at the same time explaining how this very same thing worked, how reality itself functioned: the body is constructed through its dissection. I would thus like to understand how the anatomical performance produced knowledge while at the same time illustrating or defying existing knowledge. At the same time this performative production of knowledge was embedded in a broader spectacular culture that gave centre-stage to the human body. My project aims at understanding the complex (theatrical) interaction between body, factor, anatomist and spectators while at the same time analysing the specific scenography of the anatomical lesson and the integration of the anatomical theatre into the urban fabric. In sum, it ambitions to analyse the performative impact of these theatrical events and, at the same time, their hybrid status as a theatrical event.

Selected Publications

1) ‘Reboot your culture. The theatricalization of the unbearable’ in Image & Narrative 14:3, Arne De Winde, Sientje Maes & Bart Philipsen (guest-editors): “Beyond all Bearing. (Con)Figurations of the Intolerable, part 2”, pp. 19-33

2) ‘Lichamelijkheid en emotie op het vroegmoderne podium: de martelaar als theatraal effect’ in Tijdschrift voor Geschiedenis 3 (2013) (special issue “De lichamelijkheid van emoties” edited by Tine Van Osselaer en Josephine Hoegaerts), pp. 516-529.

3) ‘We travel to learn. Towards a reverse anthropology of the colonial body’ in Kornee Van der Haven, Tomas Macsotay, Karel Vanhaesebrouck (eds.). The Hurt(ful) Body. Pain and suffering in early modern performance and visual arts. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2016 (forthcoming)

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