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Figures of Thought

The aim of our research group is to develop a methodological and conceptual framework allowing a meaningful comparison of different cultural practices, actors and artefacts. As a starting point, we propose the concept of common ‘figures of thought’, i.e. a term that may describe basic assumptions and implicit beliefs about the nature of things which govern how humans perceive and interpret the world. A figure of thought – for instance a specific way of conceiving the human body – would find its expression in both performance and a work of literature; it might be shared across a wide range of cultural practices performed by persons from very different social backgrounds or may pertain to a very narrowly circumscribed group.

A central part of our research programme is to identify such figures of thought and how they are (re-) produced and transformed in different forms of cultural practice. It seeks to map when and how particular figures of thought are abandoned or new ones appear, as well as discern which ones reach a position of hegemony within one or across several social configurations. In other words, we are seeking to trace gradual changes in the epistemological framework.