Making Sense of Beauty / The Beauty Project

Country: USA

City: Oxford

Abstr. due: 05.06.2015

Dates: 11.09.15 — 13.09.15

Area Of Sciences: Psychology; Sociology;

Organizing comittee e-mail:

Organizers: Inter-Disciplinary.Net


We see beauty; we experience beauty; we think beautiful words, beautiful  thoughts. It raises us up, comforts, inspires, thrills, takes us out of ourselves to the sublime and the sacred; it also challenges, disturbs, discomforts and brings us to the most unlikely and unexpected places of death and destruction. Some find no beauty in life, or claim they are unable to see the beautiful any more. It is many things to many people. But it is never neutral or detached and you cannot ‘take it or leave it'; without fail, it elicits a response.

What is beauty? The flickering shafts of light playing through the leaves of a tree, the nuanced strokes of an artist’s painting, nature’s rich abundance of animals, the interplay of light and shadow on a human face, the angles and curves of a building, the structure of a snow flake or (diseased) molecular cell, the simplicity of a mathematical formula, the manner of a death: all have been labelled beautiful. What is it – if anything – they share in common that allows us to call them beautiful?

Is the word itself a problem? Are ‘beauty’ and ‘the beautiful’ the same thing? Or are we dealing with something which is literally in the eyes of a billion beholders, eliciting a billion reactions and consequently a billion unique definitions?

Does it matter? Is preoccupation with beauty a distraction from other considerations, such as functionality, utility or practicality? Is beauty merely one of life’s luxuries, or is it directly related – in both positive and negative ways – to health, happiness, well-being, sense of self and other essentials for survival? How does beauty inform the way we cultivate personal relationships and experience love and romance? How does it shape our values and our perceptions of the broad spectrum of human creativity? What is at stake when we talk about art, literature, film or music in terms of beauty?

The Making Sense of Beauty conference seeks to explore these questions in an inclusive environment that welcomes participants from all disciplines, professions and vocations. As we come together to engage in a rich interdisciplinary conversation we will wrestle with issues that cross the boundaries of the intellectual, the emotional and the personal. The conference organiser’s therefore welcome the submission of proposals for presentations that deal with any aspect of beauty, such as:

1. Experiences and Representations of Beauty:
– Beauty and the everyday
– Beauty and social stratification: gender, sexuality, class, race, ethnicity, age, etc.
– Beauty specialists
– Beauty disciples
– Pursuit of beauty
– Appropriations of beauty
– Expressions of beauty
– Appearance of beauty
– Making beauty
– Documenting beauty
– Emotion and beauty
– Beauty and seduction
– Representing beauty in art, literature and popular culture
– Visualising beauty

2. Beauty and Nature:
– Beauty and the natural world
– Beauty and the Sublime
– Beauty and desire
– Science and mathematics of beauty
– Medical aspects of beauty
– Beauty and power
– Symbolic beauty
– Symmetry and beauty

3. Beauty as Commodity:
Beauty and consumer culture
– Beauty and cultural capital
– Beauty professions and trades
– Beauty cities
– Beauty marketing and forecasting
– Professional beauties (models, actors, celebrities, beauty pageants etc.)
– Fashion and beauty
– Glamour and beauty
– Constructs of beauty

4. Beauty in Flux:
Beauty and transgression
– Beauty and ugliness
– Beauty and aging
– Defiling the beautiful
– Destroying the beautiful
– Beauty and death
– Beauty and decay, horror, the grotesque
– Beauty subcultures – Enhancing the body beautiful: cosmetics, tattoos, piercings, surgical interventions, and other forms of body modification
– The body in flux
– Future bodies
– Beauty across cultures
– Historical perspectives on beauty
– Are we haunted by our past  beauty/reflecting on the past ?

5. Using Beauty:
Beauty and mental health
– Beauty and clinical/rehabilitative/restorative practices
– Beauty and engineering, urban planning and development
– Beauty as vehicle for social/political/cultural critique
– Beauty and education/learning
– Beauty and public policy: legislation that preserves/neglects beautiful things

Subsequently, as well as more traditional forms of presentation, we encourage submission of proposals for short workshops, practitioner-based activities, best practice showcases, how-to sessions, live demonstrations, performances, and pre-formed panels. We particularly welcome short film screenings; photographic essays; installations; interactive talks and alternative presentation styles that encourage engagement.

Conference Web-Site: