Cultural Skin Studies

Network of Scholars of Skin in Literature & Culture

2023 Conference

Cultures of Skin: Skin in Literature and Culture, Past, Present, Future

The Cultures of skin conference is running on Friday the 7th and Saturday, 8 July at the University of Surrey, Guildford, UK.

We have had a fantastic response to our call and are looking forward to an exciting conference with 28 international speakers!


The programme will soon be available. The conference will run fully hybrid with in-person and online speakers in each panel.


Registration booking will soon be available via the Surrey store; links will appear here once registration is available. Registration will be at the following rates:

In-Person Registration, full rate, Friday 7th July: £25

In-Person Registration, PGR/unwaged rate, Friday 7th July: £20

In-Person Registration, full rate, Saturday 8th July: £25

In-Person Registration, PGR/unwaged rate, Saturday 8th July: £20

Conference Dinner Friday 7th July: £20

Online Registration, both days (flat rate): £20

The in-person registration fee will include catering (lunch and daytime refreshments), with options for an informal welcome dinner on the Thursday evening, and a Friday evening dinner – both of the dinners will be bookable separately.

The registration fee for online delegates will enable us to provide technical assistance throughout the conference so as to enhance the virtual experience as much as possible.

We are grateful to the British Academy for funding to support the conference.

Virtual Participation

Virtual participation will take place via zoom and we will provide links on the final programme. If you are presenting virtually, we plan to have a test run of the facilities on the Thursday afternoon for anyone who would like this – details TBC nearer the time.

On the Friday evening, in lieu of the in-person dinner we will have a virtual networking space set up to facilitate online collaboration.

Conference logistical information: see here

About the conference

This conference brings together scholars working on literary and cultural representations of skin, across historical periods and transnational contexts, to create new dialogues on the cultural meanings of skin from the past through to the present day, and consider the current and future state of the field(s) of skin studies.

Building on an earlier set of enquiries that initiated skin studies in the early 2000s – with key works including Claudia Benthien’s Skin: On the Cultural Border Between Self and the World (1999); Sara Ahmed and Jackie Stacey’s Thinking through the Skin (2001); and Steven Connor’s The Book of Skin (2004) – in recent years there has been renewed interest in examining the cultural representations of skin within a variety of cultural texts and media. Scholars have worked across historical and contemporary time periods, engaging with key concepts around identity and embodiment, agency and performativity, temporality and spatiality, and in relation to discourses including of race, class, gender, and sexuality, health and illness. Literary and cultural scholarship has been instrumental in advancing theoretical and methodological approaches to the skin as historically variable and culturally constituted, building up a rich picture of “cultures of skin” from the past to the present day. This represents an exciting moment to consider the state of skin studies now, and to anticipate future directions for the field.

In this conference we seek to establish international dialogue among scholars working on a range of contexts and concepts around the skin, to consider thematic and conceptual avenues as well as methodological and theoretical approaches to the skin. We invite scholars working on literary and cultural representations of skin, from any historical period or national/cultural perspective, to submit abstracts on themes including but by no means limited to:

  • skin as text, texts as skin
  • skin and/as the self, skin and identity,
  • skin texture, porosity, permeability
  • skin colour and race
  • skin as thing/material object and in relation to the material world
  • animal/nonhuman skins
  • skin care and cosmetics throughout history
  • technologies of the skin, future skin
  • skin as a medium of artistic representation/performance
  • skin damage and modification – wounding, scarring, tattoos
  • skin in relation to health and illness
  • the geographies of skin moving through space
  • methodological and theoretical approaches to studying and working on skin
  • state of the field reflections, the future of skin studies

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